Review: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
The title clearly lays out the premise. This film’s entire theme is that Abe Lincoln was, in his younger days, the Buffy of the 1800s. I know I’m kind of late with this review as the film is all but out of theaters but maybe you can still find it. Should you? Well, if you are looking for a realistic tale look elsewhere. This is an action film with a touch of period drama and a whole lot of vampires.
When one sets out to write a vampire movie one must decide what parts of the mythology to include. In Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter vampires have somehow “adapted” to sunlight. It’s a throwaway line in the film but it makes a big difference. It allows vampires to be part of society. It allows them to take positions of power. And, with slavery still legal, they have a near limitless source of blood to draw upon. Combine that with immortality and some impressive combat abilities that, at one point, make them an army it seems no one can stop. Also, by God’s law, it is impossible for one vampire to destroy another. Which is a new spin I’ll admit but it does raise the question of why crosses and holy places have no effect on vampires? There’s even a reference to a vampire pastor. So why does God step in to protect the vampires and not humans? Well God did give the living one edge. Silver, the metal Judas was paid in, hurts them as much as any normal person.
The film also treats the North as awfully accepting of freed slaves. Yes, the underground railroad existed. But to have an African American (or Negro as the film is brave enough to call them) as an advisor to the President? It’s another stretch of realism.
The film covers a lot of time, from Lincoln as a boy to the Civil War. You can probably guess how it ends but there are plenty of twists and turns along the way that give the film plenty of suspense. Voice over is slightly overused but that’s forgivable as it’s mostly to explain time jumps. The solid dialogue, at times aided by Lincoln’s actual words, sounds true to the time.
I haven’t read the book this is based on but the screenplay is written by the same author. He did a good job of moving the story to the big screen. Since there are no true stars in the film a lot of the estimated sixty-nine million dollar budget showed up on screen. I caught a 3-D showing and there were a few moments of greatness from that department; but I think I would have been almost as satisfied as with just 2-D. The action and effects pop off the screen because they are well shot in general rather than the 3-D in particular. The combination of stunt work and CGI mesh seamlessly. In terms of production values, the film is simply beautiful. The set work, the costumes and the majority of the make-up work is superb. Some of the humans do seem as ageless as the vampires though.
The cast all perform well. Benjamin Walker as Lincoln captures both the look and the gravitas of the man who saved America. Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Mary Todd doesn’t bring any of the mental problems her real counterpart was purported to have into the role. She plays the loving wife and doting mother but there’s a sense there’s more behind it which is proven before the final reel. Of course, a hero is only as strong as his villain and Rufus Sewell playing Adam, the leader of the vampires, is very strong indeed.
A film like this is not meant to have a deep social message. It’s meant to be a lark. And it’s a fun lark. It’s a shame it made only thirty-six million in domestic box office and stopped even reporting grosses this weekend. I guess with competition like Avengers, The Amazing Spider-man and Dark Knight Rises in theaters it got lost in the shuffle. But if you want a fun way to spend 105 minutes (there are no opening credits) then look to rent this on DVD down the line.