Release Date: June 22, 2012
Genre(s): Horror, Action, Fantasy
Cast: Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Writer(s): Seth Grahame-Smith
Running Time: 105 minutes
Adaptation of: Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith (Novel)
Synopsis: Offering an alternate, secret origin for the 16th American President, the story follows Abraham Lincoln as he seeks vengeance for the death of his mother at the hands of a vampire. The brash, young Lincoln becomes the apprentice of the enigmatic Henry Sturges and the two’s mission to slay vampires erupts into war.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter; the title alone makes you think “what the fuck?”. The premise is simple yet awesome: one of our nation’s greatest presidents moonlighted as a vampire slayer to keep the country safe from a vampiric scourge. Who wouldn’t be interested in such a strange “what if…?” scenario, despite knowing Lincoln’s ultimate fate(which strangely occurred during a play about vampires)? Unfortunately, despite how cool the action sequences are and how interesting the idea of Lincoln slaying vamps in the late 18th century seems, this film never really proves itself to be thoroughly enjoyable. But, don’t stake it’s heart just yet—it’s not a complete loss.
I haven’t read the novel this film is based on, but the screenplay was written by the original author, Seth Grahame-Smith. As I understand, the novel is an incredibly fun, tongue-in-cheek, horror-thriller sprinkled with clever alternate explanations behind some of the most famous events and people of the 18th century. I can’t help but think Grahame-Smith dropped the ball somehow, which baffles me—this is his baby. The plot of the movie is overly serious—which does not mesh well with the ridiculous visuals—and the plot seems so streamlined to the point where it feels like it’s trying to rush you through the story and get you out of the theater. The film also starts out very slow, and feels really low budget in the beginning—it honestly felt like I was watching a Syfy made-for-TV movie for the first twenty minutes of the film. Once it gets going, it keeps you invested by not satisfied; you’re going to want more.
I think the major problem with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is the director, Timur Bekmambetov. His action sequences are beautiful and wonderfully choreographed(although a little too reliant on slow motion), but the lens filters he employs are borderline terrible. Many sequences are very fuzzy and washed out, which even if it was an artistic choice, can’t look good in 3-D. I opted to skip the 3-D version however, because the 3-D trailer did not impress me. I also feel this film is almost a spiritual successor to Bekmambetov’s Night Watch trilogy, which isn’t a good thing. While his Russian vampire trilogy was entertaining, it was weird and doesn’t fit well with normal vampire lore. This film feels the same way, despite actually presenting the traditional mythology. The cast, on the other hand, do their damnedest to keep this train from derailing. Benjamin Walker is a great Lincoln and—with his prosthetic nose—looks like he could be Liam Neeson’s son(and we all know Neeson is basically the ass-kicking, reincarnated spirit of Lincoln. Wait, why wasn’t he cast as the older Lincoln?!). The rest of the capable cast is rounded out by Dominic Cooper as Lincoln’s mentor Henry Sturges, the gorgeous Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Lincoln’s wife Mary Todd, Rufus Sewell as the evil vampire leader Adam, Anthony Mackie as Abraham’s longtime friend Willy, and Jimmi Simpson as Joshua Speed, an associate and friend of Lincoln.
One of the things that bothered me most in the film is the make-up. Older Lincoln looks terrible half of the time, and his friends and loved ones never quite look older when they are supposed to. The make-up effects team slapped a beard and glasses on Jimmi Simpson and dusted some white paint onto Anthony Mackie’s hair and we’re suppose to believe they’ve aged. That is lazy and cheap as fuck. However, despite the film’s many shortcomings, it is worth watching and does offer a fun alternate history of the American Civil War(the South were slave-draining vampires!). I just don’t recommend watching it in the theater—wait for Blu-ray, DVD, Netflix, or however you choose to watch movies at home. I also recommend reading the book in addition to the film; I’m not usually the one says “the book was better”, but upon reading a summary of the book, it sounds way fucking cooler and more impressively written. I’ll be picking up the novel myself. Hopefully this story will be made into a miniseries or something in the future, because this film ultimately does not do Lincoln’s legacy of brutality justice. Oh yeah, and the ending was lame.