*Posted on the Monkey in the Cage Website on July 12th, 2012
My wife and I were enjoying a new episode of Futurama when we were first introduced to a preview of “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”. I laughed out loud thinking it to be tongue in cheek, but my wife told me she didn’t catch that feeling from the trailer but instead it looked like it took itself very seriously. After a quick search for more information surrounding the film she, as is often the case, proved to have been right when I was wrong.
I’ll admit my curiosity was peaked, it seemed this secret history tale of our 16th president did indeed take itself very seriously. I discovered there was a book written by none other than Seth Grahame-Smith, of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” fame and things finally made sense. So I decided to forgo the book, as it is rare for me to find myself in the position where I can see the film first, and make time to catch this cinematic oddity.
Abraham Lincoln is first introduced to nosferatu when his mother is killed by one of the creatures early in the opening act, though at the time he does not fully understand what he is seeing. After this he bides his time, respecting his father’s wishes that he leave things be, until after his father’s death whereupon he decides to seek out his mother’s murderer. This proves to be a disastrous decision that almost ends our future prospects for the most famous beard ever to be elected president. He is saved last minute by a mysteriously powerful man named Henry Sturges who opts to train Abraham to become an axe wielding marauder of the night, fit to take on the supernatural threat of vampirism. Thus begins a historical, supernatural mashup of “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”.
When I stated before that the movie takes itself seriously I intend that to mean they do not intentionally poke fun at their subject, all fourth walls remain firmly intact. That being said the movie is often times hilarious campy fun. Don’t go in expecting to ponder whether these events occurred, rather go in with the expectation of seeing images like Abraham Lincoln leaping from horse to horse in a crazed stampede cause by a vampire he seeks to kill. This movie is destined to be a riff target for any number of B-movie lovers, it’s just been primed for it. The acting is well done but there is always an air of silliness that cannot be brushed aside no matter how competently the script is handled, even in the most dire of situations. In fact, I was reminded heavily of “The Whitest Kids You Know” historical sketches as I viewed the interactions on screen and kept expecting Abraham Lincoln to tell someone to “calm down, just caaalm down”.
I don’t want to give the wrong impression that this movie is without faults. Directed by Timur Bekmambetov the film suffers from some poorly enacted CGI effects in places much like his other recent crazy action romp title “Wanted”. There were also issues with believability. “But Kevin” you say, “this is a movie about our 16th president… hunting vampires, what’s to believe?” I’ll tell you people in my head. If you intend this to be a secret history of a real man, and that real man can chop a tree down with one swing of an axe, you are going to have to offer some explanation as to just how he can do such a thing. Lincoln is suppose to be a regular guy, highly trained as he may be, he is still human. I cite images of him leaping across the backs of stampeding horses as a callback. Items like this take me out of the experience, however they do add heavily to the camp so I may be inclined to forgive.
In the end “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” delivers fairly well on its premise, it truly is incredible how this alternative history can slip so seamlessly into the mysterious gaps of our favorite rail-splitter’s past. Though to say it was historically accurate would simply be a farce, and some may not take kindly to the oversimplification of some of our country’s ugliest atrocities. The plot moves along crisply with only a few sluggish portions but at times feels a mite disjointed and some of the decisions made by the villains make little sense to me. Bottom line, if you are in the mood for some truly inventive action scenes, a playful romp in history, and some good old fashioned vampire killin’ give it a go.
I hear the book is leaps and bounds better, I intend to check it out.