Thursday, June 21, 2012

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter -- A Righteous Man, Swinging an Awesome Axe

Henry Sturges: Real power comes not from hate but from truth.
Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer is light on history and heavy on vampires but ultimately delivers an action movie that is a lot of fun.

We first see Lincoln as a young boy, being exposed to the two things that will drive him throughout his life: a slave trader whipping a young slave boy and a vampire who delivers tragedy. So when Lincoln hates slavery and vampires ... it's personal.

Years later, on the trail of vengeance, Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) encounters Henry Sturges (Dominic Cooper).  A dedicated vampire assassin, Sturges recruits Lincoln to help rid the world of evil. In the process, Lincoln follows some of the timeline that all Americans know so well, meeting Mary Todd, attending law school, debating with Douglas Stephens, and so forth. All while dispatching a large quantity of gruesome vampires at night.

This brings him to the attention of Adam (Rufus Sewell), the leader of the American vampire living in the South whose dream is to found a nation of his own. Thus Lincoln winds up fighting the war with the South on two fronts for human freedom.

I could tell you more of the story but it is really unnecessary. Just go along for the ride and have a riproaring good time enjoying the stunts and the clever weaving of basic Lincoln facts with the action/horror story.

Liberties are taken with the timeline and only the high points of Lincoln's life are touched upon, but we aren't watching this for a history lesson. We want to see our 16th president to take down some vamps in spectacular style. The movie doesn't disappoint on this front, sometimes in spectacular action sequences that are as electrifying to watch as they are outrageous in hind-sight.

In fact, it was while supremely enjoying the first of the action sequences that I suddenly thought, "Of, of course, it's that director." I have a love for Bekmambetov's Russian movies, Nightwatch and Daywatch, which are what brought him to the attention of Hollywood in the first place. This film is less complex than those but delivers similar verve and style.

A note to those who worry about respectful treatment of Abraham Lincoln. I myself was suddenly hit with those same twinges at the beginning of the movie. Young Abe snatches up his axe to visit frontier justice on the slave trader and I suddenly felt it was extremely disrespectful to treat Abraham Lincoln's memory in this way. I don't have a lot of people I idolize but Abraham Lincoln is definitely one. I had to remind myself it was just a movie, that I'd read plenty of alternate-universe science fiction with a similar premise, and I kept on watching. The movie makers were no fools and know the place that Abraham Lincoln has in the American psyche. He was treated quite respectfully and I never felt a qualm after that initial plunge into unreality.

There are some annoying points. Dressing the female vampire like a dominatrix was ridiculous (yes, I know how silly it sounds to strain at that particular gnat in a movie so grounded in unreality). Just go with me on this one.

The time that passed between Lincoln's "Eureka" moment toward the end and the fulfillment of his vision was insanely short ... I don't know why that bothered me but it was a nagging impossibility I couldn't shake.

The 3D was unnecessary and, in the screening I was at, distracting in the big action scenes. Not worth the extra money and there isn't a single effect that can't adequately be conveyed as a regular movie.

These are small points, to be sure.

Overall Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, is a perfect summer popcorn movie. Enjoy!

Ratings Note: Rated R for violence throughout and brief sexuality. I'll add that the gore splatters liberally during any slaying so if that bothers you (and it does me) then be ready to avert your eyes.


  1. I read the book--- just couldn't resist the title and the chance to freak my mother out with the cover picture--- and would have liked to see the movie but alas, I used up my one movie-going opportunity of the year on The Hunger Games. Worth it, but there are so many out this year.

  2. I loved that book! I am a huge fan of historical fiction though...emphasis on

  3. It's truly amazing that the movie shows Lincoln attending law school. Law schools didn't become prevalent until the late 1900s. Lincoln obtained his law license like most folks back then, through apprenticeship.

  4. Actually he probably says he is studying law since we only ever see him carrying around books and talking about it. But since this is a strict historical film and since I took a transcription of dialogue so I could report it word for word, then you are definitely right to question the review and movie. :-D