Friday, February 1, 2013

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Movie Review

Just the idea of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012) sounds ludicrous and fun. The book was published in 2010 by Seth Grahame-Smith. I read it, and thought it was a remarkably fun and interesting read. It featured real historical events in Lincoln’s life, but shows us how vampires were behind them in very creative ways. Mr. Grahame-Smith went on to write a screen play version of his own novel. After seeing the movie, I have to wonder if he bothered to consult his own book while working on the film adaptation.
At the age of 9, young Abraham Lincoln witnesses his mother being killed by a vampire, Jack Barts (Marton Csokas). About 10 years later, Abe (Benjamin Walker) unsuccessfully tries to eliminate Barts but in the process makes the acquaintance of Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper) who teaches him how to fight and what is required to kill a vampire. The quid pro quo is that Abe will kill only those vampires that Henry directs him to kill. Abe relocates to Springfield where he gets a job as a store clerk and studies law by day and kills vampires by night. He also meets and eventually marries the pretty Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Many years later as President of the United States, he comes to realize that vampires are fighting alongside the Confederate forces, being led by a powerful vampire named Adam (Rufus Sewell). In retaliation, he mounts his own campaign to defeat them.
Abraham Lincoln is easily one of the best Presidents we’ve had in the United States. He’s a republican President that even democrats revere. He led the US through one of its greatest constitutional, military, and moral crises – The American Civil War – preserving the Union while ending slavery and promoting economic and financial modernization. How can one possibly make this admired historical figure better? Make him a vampire hunter, of course. So, we’ve got this secret history that wasn’t recorded in the history books about how Abraham Lincoln also killed vampires on top of everything else he did. I think that everyone alive today is probably so removed from those events that we wouldn’t be terribly offended by Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. We might feel differently about a movie called “W. Bush vs. Dora the Explorer” or “Barak Obama: Living Up to the Hype” Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is just about as absurd a genre mash up as you can make. Many presidents have had secret lives, but none more hard core than Abraham Lincoln killing vampires.
What made the book such a fun read was that there were lots of real historical events in Lincoln’s life that were influenced by vampires; they caused his mother’s death, they influenced Lincoln to grow his signature beard, they advocated slavery as a means of sustenance, which drove Lincoln to run for president so slavery could end, and by extension hinder the spread of vampirism, etc. For most of the movie, Abraham is just some young man in the early 1800’s trying to make his way in the world and is bitter about vampires killing his mother. Then,  suddenly, this character is President and the South is secretly run by powerful vampires. This made the movie kind of flimsy in terms of story and character and made me wonder if Grahame-Smith actually consulted his New York Times Bestseller when writing the screenplay adaptation.
The action was pretty great and showed us some grisly imagery. Lincoln’s weapon of choice is a wood splitting ax with a silver head. Not only does this ring true with Lincoln’s brawny frontiersman image as a rail splitter, but it also allows some gruesome violence that any horror movie fan would enjoy. It’s not my cup of tea, but some folks really like that.
Some action scenes were kind of dark and made it difficult to tell what is happening. The movie uses spontaneous slow motion excessively, though. That can be a neat special effect, but when used as much as it is here it loses some of its “special” effect. The climax of the movie features Abraham, Henry, and some other allies trying to defend a train carrying sliver weapons (the only thing that can harm vampires) to Gettysburg to arm the Northern forces against the vampire troops of the South. The train hurtles toward a high wooden bridge that has been set ablaze by a vampire spy from the South. It’s exciting, reasonably well choreographed, and seeing Lincoln take out vampires with his axe-twirling is pretty fun.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was not as good as I had hoped it would be. It’s pretty somber for such a ridiculous premise biography-action-horror genre mash up. Some levity that drew attention to the absurdity of the story might have made it a bit better. The story and characters are pretty weak. There’s some illogical vagueness in the timeline that is distracting if you haven’t already tuned out by that point in the movie. All in all, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter will find a place among people who enjoy absurd horror movies. It is kind of fun to watch, but very difficult to take as seriously as the movie takes itself. I can’t honestly recommend this one unless you’re in the mood for a movie that doesn’t require much attention or thought on your part. Only then is it worth the rental price.

What kind of historical figure/monster mash up would you love to see? I think seeing Theodore Roosevelt take on some werewolves would be great. Comment below and tell me what you think!


  1. Theodore Roosevelt with werewolves is an excellent idea!

    My only problem with the Lincoln movie (and I have not read the book) is that the historians portray Mary Todd Lincoln as hysterical and fragile and high-maintenance, but in the movie her character was strong and secure. I would not have trusted that woman with any task that mattered. I don't suppose the book had an explanation for the difference in character?

    Other than that, I thought if Victorians could see the movie, they'd love it for the gothic, penny-dreadful plot. I loved reading your review! Thank you!

    1. Thanks so much!
      It's been a while since I read the book, so I don't actually recall how Mary Todd Lincoln was depicted in the book. There was a discrepancy between Mary Todd Lincoln's depictions in the Vampire Hunter movie and Spielberg's Lincoln. I'd assume the latter is more accurate, though.
      Thanks for your comments! Check back often for more reviews!