Four score and seven slain vampires ago…”Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”

July 6, 2012

Okay, if you’re going to make a movie called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter work, you have to be in on the joke. Like, you need a scene when a ferocious vampire attack is suddenly halted when a towering Lincoln steps from silhouette into the light and says something like, “You know, only two things I do real well: splittin’ rails and killing godless vampires. Bad news for you is there ain’t a rail to be found in this joint.” And then he just goes buffalo-shit-Navy-SEAL crazy on them with an axe. Yeah, it has to be that tongue-in-cheek to really operate properly. Unfortunately, this movie bearing the title was directed by Russian filmmaker Timur Bekmambekov, and, well, not to knock the educational system of the former Soviet Union, but I think this guy believes this shit really happened.

In this movie Abe Lincoln basically runs around killing vampires when he’s not, you know, Presidenting and stuff. Cool? Well, there’s a tad more to it than that. As a kid, he saw a vampire kill his mom, so he’s really pissed about that. Understandable really. He tries to avenge her death but makes a botch of the job because he’s all tall and gangly (he’s going through his Judge Reinhold phase), and his opponent is, you know, a vampire. Fortunately, he’s saved by some dude named Henry Sturgess, who reveals that 1) vampires are real, and 2) he can teach Abe how to kill them. Abe is okay with this.

So, fast-forward and Abe has moved to that megalopolis of Springfield where he starts working for Joshua Speed and reunites with a childhood friend of his, William Johnson. He’s also getting notes on the sly from Sturgess directing him to different vampires to kill. I guess he’s supposed to be getting better at the vamp killing, but based on what we see, he kind of sucks at it always.

So, it seems that the vamps are being controlled by vampire king Rufus Sewell, who is in league with the Southern secessionists to bring about an independent vampire nation in the south, where the slave population will provide them with a constant source of food. You know, I understand we have a black(ish) President and all, but I don’t think we’re so post-racial that there isn’t something distasteful about one of this country’s Original Sins being explained away as a plot-device in a crappy movie.

Now, Lincoln really hates slavery, so he decides to become President and abolish it. And he does. It’s just that easy. But then the Civil War breaks out, and Lincoln’s all like “FML…there’s a Civil War now. I suck.” However, when the vamps kill his son…oh baby! It is on like on like Donkey Kong! Lincoln gets his trusty vampire-killin’ axe out of storage and decides to regulate.

The big problem is that the Union is losing the war, not because our generals were by-and-large nincompoops, but because the Confederate soldiers were mostly vampires. In order to kill them, the Union forces need silver munitions to kill the vampires. This sets the stage for a final confrontation atop the munitions train. Spoiler Alert: The Union wins the war.

Bekmambekov, who made a splash in his native Evil Empire with the Night Watch movies, last brought us the inane Wanted, and he’s retained his love of style over substance. I mean, there is so much slo-mo, and massive foreground shots, and swirling camera tricks, it’s like a Brian DePalma film, if DePalma dropped his body-weight in ecstasy and was given a SteadiCam.  Unfortunately, none of this gives the movie the camp it needs to work. I’m telling you, Bekmambekov thinks he’s making Gods and Generals here.

Additionally we have:

* Holy crap, the CGI is so bad it’s like something from Piranhaconda on Syfy. There are at least two scenes in which objects don’t seem to have any physical substance. When Speed crashes a horse-drawn carriage through French doors, it looks like a ghost-hitch just invade the scene.

* Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Mary Todd Lincoln as a strong-willed, but playful companion to Abe, and not, you know, the crazy, mean, harpy she actually was.

* Most of these characters are actual historical figures. You’ll probably recognize some, depending upon how good your high school history teachers were.

* Speaking of, the movie introduces them pretty artlessly. The result is things like, “Nice to meet you, Stephen Douglas. Wow, we’re sure on opposite sides of the fence on this whole slavery thing. We should debate this sometime.”

* So, this is another one of those movies, like Green Lantern, where the mentor figure is real cockbag who seems to despise his protégé. When did this trend start? When did “Do or do not. There is no try,” give way to “goddamn, you’re a numbnuts”?

* Also this another one of those movies where the mentor prohibits his protégé from having a lover or family. What the hell is Hollywood’s obsession with self-denial? Just once I’d like to see an exchange like, “Hey, do I need to stay single and alone forever, never getting close to anyone, so that they won’t be hurt by enemies?” “What? Fuck no. What are you gonna do, choke the chicken for the rest of your life? You hunt vampires for sport! You know how much strange that’s gonna get you? You’re gonna be ten-deep in hotties!”

* There’s a completely ludicrous scene, in which Abe chases a vampire amid a stampede of horses. Throughout it, he leaps and spins from horse to horse and dodges airborne horses that have been thrown through the air by, uh, momentum, I guess. It’s like the dinosaur stampede in King Kong, except sucky. The horses we can see clearly have big, bugged-out eyes and gaping mouths as if to say, “Holy crap, I’m a badly-rendered CGI horse, and even I want out of this movie.”

* Abe figures out that the way to turn the tide of war is to use silver bullets and bayonets when he’s shaking a piece of White House flatware. So basically, his moment of satori is: “Holy shit! That substance that I always used to kill vampires because it’s their only vulnerability? There’s like fuck-tons of it around here! We could so totally make it into bullets!” This is a difficult Lincoln to get behind.

*SPOILER: The munitions train was actually a decoy, and the ammo was actually transported via the Underground Railroad (Abe tells the bad guy, “There are other railroads.”)  Okay, Timur? You do realize that the Underground Railroad wasn’t an actual railroad right? And that for your movie to make sense, a bunch of runaway slaves would have had to hand-carry literally tons of ammo over 80 miles in, like, an evening?

* More awkward history: “Hurry up, Abe, or we’ll be late for the theater!” At least he doesn’t reply, “Just hang on, while I sign the order authorizing this ‘Secret Service’ thing. Heh, dunno why we’d need that.”

* At the end of the film, Lincoln’s White House dissolves to show the present day White House with Marine One landing. I would have given a kidney if an actor playing Obama strode out in full Blade dress, casually cleaning a katana sword. Seriously. Given. A. Kidney.

*This movie was mostly shot in Louisiana, which explains why Illinois seems to have a lot of marshes, rivers, and misty swamps (Timur? It doesn’t).

Okay, so that’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. The only way this movie would be good is if it clears the way to Teddy Roosevelt: Piranhaconda Slayer. Which, actually, probably happened.


  1. I have seen very mixed reviews of this one. I am waiting for the DVD. I have to say though that the book was great. It was like the autobiography of Lincoln with vampires thrown in. Plus it had a much better ending then (I am told) the movie has.

    • Yeah, someone else I spoke to is reading the book and mentioned several subplots that don’t appear in the movie. DVD is the way to go with this one…

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