Directed by Timur Bekmambetov
June 18, 2012 (New York City) / June 22, 2012 (United States)
Here we learn the little-known story of Abraham Lincoln’s time hunting the undead and his efforts to prevent them from establishing a vampiric stronghold in the Confederacy.
This film is based on a book of the same name with the screenplay by the novel’s author Seth Grahame-Smith who also served as an executive producer. This film mixes a smidgen of historical fact with some serious historical fantasy. The realities of Abraham Lincoln’s life are mixed in with a vampire tale where Lincoln using a silver tipped axe in hand smites the undead because he is seeking revenge for the death of his mother.
I would admit that the concept is silly. Vampires and Abraham Lincoln mashed together is ludicrous. And that is okay. Not everything has to be deadly serious. Sometimes movie or book ideas can be just fun or silly and this is exactly the case here. They decided to blend a little fantasy with reality and run with it.
We get a mix of real historical figures from Lincoln’s life. Benjamin Walker plays the titular Abraham Lincoln who secretly becomes a secret vampire hunter after the death of his mother. Anthony Mackie, probably the most famous name currently in this cast, plays longtime Lincoln aid Will Johnson. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays a fictionalized version of Lincoln’s wife Mary Todd Lincoln. Jimmi Simpson is Lincoln’s friend and assistant Joshua Speed. John Rothman makes a brief yet important appearance as Jefferson Davis. Jaqueline Fleming was cast as Harriet Tubman but until I saw the names together, I was completely unaware that she was the character. Alan Tudyk gets to play Stephen Douglas. In the plot Lincoln woes Mary from Douglas but near as I can tell he did not know her in real life.
But this is a vampire movie so we must talk about the bloodsuckers. In this story Lincoln is begun on this path in earnest by Henry Sturges (Dominic Cooper) who is a vampire himself. Rufus Sewell is Adam who is the 5,000-year-old leader of the vampires who has grand designs on establishing the South as a vampire stronghold with slaves as food as well as being labor. Erin Wasson is Adam’s sister and enforcer Vadoma. Marton Csokas plays Jack Barts who is a plantation owner and the vampire who killed Lincoln’s mother.
The way they tweak reality is to twist what happened with real events. One is that Lincoln’s third son died while he was in office most likely from typhoid. Here his (Cameron M. Brown) illness is because of a vampire revenge plot.
An interesting twist on the usual film vampire mythology is that vampires can move around in the day and apparently use a form of sunscreen for themselves. Though how exactly this all works is not really clear. They are apparently weaker in the sun and prefer to move about at night.
They play fast and loose with history here but this is also vampires in the movie so what do you expect? I recall reading a few blurbs and articles that came out at the time that felt a need to go into the historical inaccuracies in the film and I couldn’t have been the only one that asked the obvious question: why? I am also curious what editor thought historical inaccuracies in a work of historical fiction was a good angle for a story. It is a movie about Abraham Lincoln fighting vampires!
The costuming here is good. Fortunately they did not go cheap on the outfits. They do not look like they were Halloween purchases from the discount rack. They are not overly detailed yet nor are they underdone. They look like what you might find from pictures of the time and nothing looks like it was bought at your local K-Mart.
For something with such a silly premise, the action is pretty good. There are two major action sequences: the one where Lincoln finally gets to attack the vampire that harmed his mother and the one in the finale with the decoy train. Both look just great. They are kinetic and crazy. The rest of the action scenes look great as well. The use of slow motion, though a cliché, helps make things a bit more intense.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a fine movie. It is not deep and just asks that you not over analyze things. I give this a watch it!