Film Review: Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter

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Provided By Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Always thought to be an honest and well-read elected official, there’s another side to this copper penny (Sorry for the pun, I couldn’t resist).  Behind the beard and the hat lies a hero of epic proportions.  Prepare for the untold adventures of President Lincoln’s battles against the non-sparkly blood suckers from his youth to the well-known image in the history books.

This isn’t your daddy’s commander-in-chief.

We travel back to an alternate time where Nosferatu is no longer a myth or legend.  It’s the early half of the 19th century and Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) has a gnarly bone to pick with one particular vamp.  He witnesses first hand his mother being drained in the middle of the night by a shadowy assailant that turns out to be his father’s former employer.  Now in his early twenties, his quest for vengeance against the murderer leads him into an unexpected encounter. Due to a lack of knowledge and experience, he almost gets himself killed.  Vampire hunter Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper) intervenes just in time before fang meets flesh.  From there on, Abe is taken into Sturgess’ tutelage in the art of vampire slaying.  With axe in hand and hat on head, honest Abe sets out on a daunting mission to rid America of its infestation of the undead.

Let’s get this out of the way.  The premise of the movie is absurd to say the least.  If you’re going into this film and criticizing it for it’s historical inaccuracy, you’re taking the movie way too seriously.  You’re probably the same type of person who treats The Flintstones as a historical documentary.  The title alone should be enough to give you an indication of what to expect from the film.  Based on the novel of the same name, author Seth Grahame-Smith’s fan-fic has some literary fun mashing the historical figure with B-movie horror.  Grahame-Smith’s tale of the unprecedented supernatural adventures of Honest Abe is not far from familiar territory; especially considering his first genre bending 2009 novel, Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies.  Much like the Assassin’s Creed games, Graham-Smith borrows from documented historical events and then gives them a conspiratorial, entertaining twist.  According to this alternate timeline, vampires have played a pivotal role in Abe’s life.  Being as far-fetched premise as it is, the story actually succeeds in entertaining audience members.  I found myself bellyaching more than face palming.  Lets just say the absurdity lends itself quite well for the summer blockbuster season.

As in most period films, the story is appropriately told through the journal logs of our leading protagonist.  The voice over is carried quite well by Benjamin Walker and for most part works fine for a narrative device; thus giving us some insight on the internal thoughts and turmoil of our dear Mr. Lincoln.  Unfortunately, it’s also used as crutch for filmmakers to gloss over plot points and character development with undesired comical effect.  One example being the induction of Joshua Speed, who is played by A&E’s Breakout Kings’ Jimmi Simpson, into the vampire slaying world.  Joshua is at first a store clerk which hires Lincoln to be his stock boy in exchange for a room above the store.  When Lincoln was in need of aid for a rescue mission, he inducts Speed into the fold and explains what he was doing after hours.  The narrating lines “I decided to tell Speed about everything,” simply skipped the story forward with a montage.  Just like that, Speed was willing and understanding enough to go into battle alongside Abe.  It’s just laughable how quickly and easily it occurred in the span of screen time.  With this being said, the narration was an understandable plot device to cover the vast life span of Abraham Lincoln, however, the film’s pacing seemed rushed and sped along because of it.  But honestly, how much longer would you want to force the audience to sit through an outlandish plot?

The largest undertone of the plot is President Lincoln’s fight for equality of the African-American slaves.  It was established early on his distaste for the horrible treatment of blacks.  As a young boy he attempts to save his childhood friend Will Johnson (Anthony Mackie) from being whipped by slave traders, therefore establishing to the audience Lincoln’s views on slavery and his future political stances while running for office.  It’s later revealed that there is a second motive behind his goals to abolish slavery.  The Southern Vampires, lead by Adam (Rufus Sewell), have been feasting on slaves instead of white citizens to avoid drawing attention.  After realizing that the battle of good versus evil would never be won through fisticuffs, Abe decided to help the slaves through political means, ad’vertently cutting off the vampires’ discreet supply of blood.  The logic of killing two birds with one stone is there, but I wasn’t sure if I should be offended or laughing at the film’s interpretation of Lincoln’s motivation to free slaves. As I said before, the story did establish his desire for equality for all men, white or black.  In my opinion it just makes his political career seem more driven out of necessity rather than compassion.   More or less diminishing the ground breaking act of equality set forth by the real Abraham Lincoln.  You just have to suspend disbelief, not be offended and roll with the absurdity in order to enjoy the rest of the film.

Provided By Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Absurd plot aside, the majority of the cast did a decent portrayal of their characters.  Albeit Benjamin Walker version Lincoln seems a little stiff at times and a loose canon at others.  I suppose it’s in the nature of a character with dual personalities.  One being the daytime mild-mannered store clerk and the other a vampire-hunting avenger of the night.  His aging make-up and prosthetics were handled well and was not overtly noticeable, lending to the believability of the character during his fifties in the oval office.  The famous first lady’s shoes were filled by actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs The World).  Her portrayal of Mary Todd was not the expected ordinary housewife.  Strong-willed and assertive came to mind while Winstead was on screen, but this is nothing new in today’s leading female roles as of late.  Current interpretations of classical women in film have often been updated to the modern strong woman while still playing the conservative homemaker.  Although in one scene her character’s outburst of anger was so over the top, it was almost comical enough to pull me out of the movie.  Vampire Lord Adam is an evil SOB.  What else is there to say?  There can only be one dimension for an evil vampire mastermind who wants to take over America.  He does pull off the sinister snob very well, which he seems to be typecasted anyways.  The cast does the best they can, considering the material.   There is even an appearance by Alan Tudyk (Firefly fans knows who I’m talking about) and a historical activist of the 1800’s.

Fight choreographer, Tsay Igor, does an excellent job turning a tool normally used for woodwork into a warrior’s weapon meant to be reckoned with.  Lincoln’s axe spins, twirls, and is put into use not much unlike a bo staff in a Kung Fu flick. It’s almost hypnotically brutal watching old Abe take out several vamps with smooth and effortless swing of the wood-splitter.  The action in the film was well executed and hilariously outlandish.  Action settings range from a train rooftop battle to a rampaging multi-horseback leaping chase scene which leads to a vampire hurling a horse by its’ hoofs towards our hero. If you like slow motion epics like 300, you’ll feel right at home.  There is no shortage of slow motion shots in this film, all opportunities are taken to display a slow moving axe swing that then speeds up into a skull splitting chop.  The novelty might wear off if not for the comedic relief it provides at times.  All-in-all, a good time to be had.  The biggest negative critique I would have is on the vampire baddies themselves.  Super strength, agility, and speed; but they are still being taken down by a mortal wielding and axe?  They even have the power to vanish and turn invisible right in front of you.  However they will still run in a straight line, while cloaked, to Abe’s axe swinging range of attack.  In one scene a vamp dodges a knife throw and gun shot; but is simply taken down by an epic punch.  Even if the hand was wrapped in a silver chain, which is one of the vampires weaknesses in this film, it still doesn’t make any logical sense.  Another oddity is these vampires are immune to sunlight and nothing is brought up to explain why.  At least they don’t glisten in sun.

The CGI was noticeably unappealing, especially during the aforementioned horse chase scene.  The vampires’ fang face is particularly cartoonish and plastic like.  On the other hand it might work considering the context of the film almost being a live-action anime.

After viewing Prometheus, I was sure 3D was no longer going to be for me.  It wasn’t that Ridley’s venture into the third dimension was god-awful or anything.  I just came to a self-realization that 3D doesn’t technically enhance my enjoyment of a film greatly, just marginally.  Especially if the story is poor to begin with.  But I stand corrected.  ALVH renewed my interest in 3D cinema and the potential it may have.  I always believed the best type of 3D was utilized by enhancing the depth into the screen, much like Nintendo’s 3DS, instead of protruding out of it.  Otherwise the foreground image just tends to distract more than give a sense of awe.  In this case the extra cost might be worth it, assuming you got the coinage.

Provided By Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Rating:  MEH!

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter is an enjoyable film that will cause more laughs than face palms, though it straddles the line pretty close. I walked out with a smile on face and was able to make some memorable jokes with cohorts.  There are issues and plot holes to be had but if you’re just looking for a few laughs, than this is your flick.  But you could also hold off for rental or your preferred web-streaming service to save some money.  Now where can I get a top hat like in the film?  Cause Mary Todd removed Abe’s hat to stand on it to give him a kiss and I was like “That’s a sturdy hat.  Especially since it’s support her weight.  Mary Elizabeth Winstead is not a small chick guys.”

One Comment

  1. ovedeweesox says:

    Dogs, cats, hamsters, fish, parrots – who do you prefer? Or perchance what that exotic animals – snakes, crocodiles, lizards, monkeys?

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