Like many of you, or at least most of the people I’ve talked to about this subject, I was unfamiliar with Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel and rolled my eyes when I heard a movie was coming out called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
I can’t say my fears washed away immediately when I heard Tim Burton was partially responsible however he has given audiences some really dark winners in the past, Timur Bekmambetov’s participation as director added some flavor that had me thinking that the film could actually be, at the very least, entertaining. For me however, this seemed like a big roll of the dice. I mean it’s the Civil War and Abe Lincoln is an axe wielding vampire hunter. Wait, why was unsure about this again. That sounds awesome!
Vampire Hunter is exactly what you think it is. It’s over the top entertainment for people who don’t need to see the greatest movie ever made every time you step into the movie theater. The film follows Abe Lincoln from a child on his parents’ farm to the moments just before his untimely death and poses the notion that Abe’s mother was killed by vampires and that young Lincoln vows to kill all the vampires.
We know that Lincoln was a great writer and orator so it was a fitting that the film is told to us through a secret diary kept by Lincoln. Benjamin Walker’s voice over does a lot of the heavy lifting and adds a nice touch to the film in respect to the man who gave one of the greatest speeches of all time.
During his quest to find the vampire that killed his mother,Lincoln meets a man by the name of Henry Sturges (Dominic Cooper) who has made it his calling to train young Lincoln in the ways of vampire hunting. Sturges’ approach to hunting is not exactly what Lincoln had in mind but goes along with it because well, hunting vampires is a lot of fun.
Cooper and Walker have a nice chemistry on screen that is a lot of fun to watch and feels a little Sherlock/Watson. Walker is a seriously brooding figure that means serious business but still looks like he’s having way too much fun to be taken too serious. And it’s that right there that really makes the film work for me.
The film has one foot firmly in reality and as well as featuring characters who existed during that time, including Marry Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) William Johnson (Anthony Mackie) Joshua Speed (Jimmie Simpson) and Stephen A. Douglas (Alan Tudyk), the backdrop is that of the Civil War. Except in this version vampires, led by Adam, (played by the always dependable and villainous Rufus Sewell) are perpetuating the circumstances by using slaves to take the entire nation captive. Abe Lincoln doesn’t like this one bit and when he’s elected president he makes it his sole duty to rid the country of these monsters no matter the cost. Also, the death of his son, by a vampire, doesn’t make Abe any more loveable or easy to console and, frankly, just pisses the guy off.
But the film’s title tells the whole story and sets the stage for its over the top action and freight train like pace. It’s called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter…Let’s have some damn fun. There are a lot of amusing nods to historical events and characters that anyone with a high school diploma will find entertaining. But it’s the overall feel of the film that I loved most. Beside’s Walkers spot on Abe, it’s a very dark and violent film. Initially I was sure the studio would want to sell as many tickets as possible to a film that had vampire in the title and slap a PG-13 rating on it. However, Fox, trusting a successful R-rated director in Timur, held nothing back and the film is better for it. It’s incredibly violent and features vampires in the correct and demonic light with which they should be seen. It’s not overly campy but it’s just enough to smirk at and you’ll find yourself saying “Really?” only a few times. The action is far too much fun and grabs you from the first axe swing till the last twirl. Abe’s axe is the new bending bullet.
There is another Abe Lincoln movie out later this year but I challenge it to be as exciting as this..