Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)

Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 5:27 PM | Posted in

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 3.8/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 8/10

ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER (2012) - Timur Bekmambetov

Abraham Lincoln is one of America's most beloved presidents. He successfully led his country through its greatest constitutional, military and moral crisis: The American Civil War. He preserved the Union while ending slavery. He promoted economic and financial modernization. He slaughtered countless numbers of bloodthirsty vampires.

What in the name of Lincoln is wrong with this picture?

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was based on a 2010 book written by renowned author Seth Grahame-Smith. For people unfamiliar with the author, Grahame-Smith is known for satirical works that take historical aspects and flip them upside down, twisted in a blender. Most notable for his earlier novel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the unique author took this idea of "playing with history" and applied it to one of our greatest presidents. However, this time it is even more ludicrous, and I thought Cowboys & Aliens from last year was a ridiculous title. Abraham Lincoln, old Honest Abe, as a hunter of the undead? What's next? George Washington is a werewolf? Oh, I got it. Thomas Jefferson was assisted by extraterrestrial aliens to write the Declaration of Independence. Give me a break.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter begins with our fellow Honest Abe as a child living in Indiana with his parents, Nancy and Thomas. He befriends a young African American boy, William Johnson, and intervenes when he sees Johnson being beaten by a slave owner. Because of Lincoln's actions, his father is fired by his plantation owner, Barts, who demands that he pay his debts to him. When Lincoln's father refuses, Barts "collects the debt" by attacking Nancy, who dies by a strange illness the next day. Witnessing that it was Barts who poisoned his mother, Lincoln lived the next nine years seeking vengeance. 18-year old Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) attacks Barts at the docks, only to realize that he is a vampire. But soon enough, Lincoln is rescued by a man named Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), who reveals that vampires exist, and offers to teach Lincoln how to become a vampire hunter. After ten years of training, Lincoln travels to Springfield, Illinois, where the film chronicles his experience in slaying vampires. The bloody stakes are raised when Lincoln marries Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and fights the political battle of the Civil War.

I have never seen Benjamin Walker in a film before, and I was very reluctant to see how he would portray our favorite president. In all honesty, his towering height and serious yet friendly face exhibits the "common people" persuasion of a politician. His appearance, tone, and attitude bears wisdom and power, a younger version of Liam Neeson. As for his axe-swinging, that's a different story.

Coincidentally, the actress here who portrays Mary Todd is also named Mary. With experience in seeing her in Live Free or Die HardScott Pilgrim vs. the World, and the 2011 remake of The Thing, I am a devoted fan to Winstead's talent. Like other competent actresses, Winstead delivers more (with facial expressions) than the resources that she is given (dialogue). Appearance-wise, Winstead suits Lincoln's wife very well. With a face that fits the old times, all she needs is practical clothing and naturalistic makeup, which I pronounced as "Oscar-worthy."

As visceral as the vampires themselves, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter takes the audience in the world of the 1800s, and the first thing a filmgoer will notice is the amount of attention it pays on location and art direction. The sets are exquisitely designed, equivalent to the realistic portrayal of London in Sherlock Holmes. The costumes are ornate, dresses to suits, bearing the sense of old patriots. As for makeup, this film can be the next contender for the Academy Award.

Timur Bekmambetov's previous film was the 2008 film Wanted. If you have seen Wanted, and was infatuated by the slow-motion techniques and stylish action sequences, then you are in for a bloody treat. In my experience of watching movies, slow-motion used to be a fashionable approach to make a film more enjoyable, but now it has become a gimmick. One of the worst directors to abuse and butcher this technique is Zack Snyder, a hack who overuses and molests slow-motion, slow movements and speed up on impact. Ever since 2007, every film by Snyder had this element, a sign that makes it easy to tell which film belongs to Snyder. (300WatchmenLegend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'HooleSucker Punch). I am pretty sure that his upcoming Superman film Man of Steel will not be any different. It was not until last year when the original creator of slow-motion, Guy Ritchie, brought the true purpose of slow-motion to life with Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Back to Vampire Hunter, it is noticeable here that Bekmambetov has taken notes in Ritchie's films, and has taken Ritchie's visual strengths and his own strengths and applied it here in Abraham Lincoln. With a combination of smoke, dust, and depth within each shot of a fight scene, Bekmambetov fleshed out every vampire-slaughtering sequence with much vision and talent. Soon enough, before you know it, you will be cheering for Lincoln massacring those bloodsuckers. Speaking of bloodsuckers, they do not sparkle in this movie. These are the real deal: Savage and die-hard thirsty.

Surprisingly, Vampire Hunter is an early American-era thriller with a rather intelligent range of historical accuracy, combining what is real and what is fictional, similar to the success in National Treasure and The Da Vinci Code. Imagine for a second that Lincoln's second son "Willie," who died of unconfirmed typhoid fever, was actually killed by a vampire. Imagine that the South was originally winning over the North because their army soldiers consisted of immortal vampires. Imagine that the Underground Railroad was built to not only transport slaves, but also to transport weaponry made out of silver, the only thing that can kill a vampire. Equipped with silver bullets, the Union defeated the vampire Confederates at the Battle of Gettysburg, turning the tide of the Civil War. It may sound ridiculous…. but that's because it is. However, it is ridiculously appealing, the most aberrant guilty pleasure I have ever experienced in a movie. Historians, have a cup of tea and take a break. The rewriting of history in this piece is so twisted and witty that it makes logical sense, an alternative but far more entertaining spin on the Civil War period.

In its release, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was the new Cowboys & Aliens, a ridiculous title with a ridiculous premise. Well, I promise you. If you are going into a theater to watch a film about Abraham Lincoln as a hunter of the undead, you are going to get what you expect, and more. To quote Roger Ebert: "What it achieves is a surprisingly good job of doing justice to its title, and treating Lincoln with as much gravity as we can expect, under the circumstances." Unfortunately, unlike Ebert, several critics railed against the film for having an "overly serious tone [that] doesn't jibe with its decidedly silly central premise, leaving filmgoers with an unfulfilling blend of clashing ingredients." We live in a world where the unconventional is almost automatically not welcome. But movies are supposed to be plain fictional stories that can engage us and grab our interest for two hours. In Chinese culture, writers have long taken famous historical figures and throw them into a fictional story. Is it wrong to have a ridiculous but purely original idea here? Absolutely not. As long as the film is committed to its substance from beginning to end, it gets the job done. As for us, the audience, we all need to learn how to open up to new movie ideas, no matter how silly they can be. To quote the fictional critic Anton Ego: "The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends."

In conclusion, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter has quenched my thirst, and I am deeply satisfied. Its sequences may be preposterous but it is undeniably exciting and electrifying to watch. If you are one of the forgiving few who had a good time watching Cowboys & Aliens last year, this one is far superior. It is fully devoted to its narrative from the very beginning, faithful to its material and takes off when it is time to. Still, to myself, I am having a hard time believing that these words are coming out of my mouth: "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was a good movie." Overall, the film was far more entertaining than I ever expected and surpassed my standards of a film with such a ridiculous title, proving the saying that we should never "judge a book by its cover." It is an unforeseen well-made movie that accomplished what it set out to achieve, being a vampire film that you can eagerly sink your teeth into. Finally, if you choose to watch Vampire Hunter, which I highly recommend you should, be sure to stay during the credits for the Linkin Park song. With innovative end credits that express creativity and a song that thoroughly fits the entire film's atmosphere, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter presented me with a sense to call my favorite musical band: "Lincoln Park."

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