Abraham Lincoln was the sixteenth President of the United States – wed a woman named Mary Todd – had a child named “Willie” (who died at age 11) – led the country through its greatest military, moral, and constitutional crisis (the Civil War) – and is credited with ending slavery: All facts. Abraham Lincoln was a vampire hunter and fought the Civil War against vampires seeking to secede from the Union: Fiction, but damn good fiction.
Above are just a few of the embellished details in this film adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s 2010 novel of the same title. The story blends factual history with action, fantasy, and horror and is brought to life on the silver screen by director Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted, 2008), who, along with the film’s co-producer Tim Burton and screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith, capitalized on the recent popularity of vampires in film. Though this isn’t your friendly Twilight brood – these vampires are ruthless, cunning, powerful, and sometimes hideous creatures intent on destroying life and establishing their own nation.
The vampires are led by Adam (Rufus Sewell) and his sister Vadoma (Erin Wasson – of Victoria’s Secret fame) on their bloodthirsty quest for a home. With the help of Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), Abraham (Benjamin Walker) plans to protect his country and avenge his mother’s death through methods that evolve throughout a solidly crafted and thought-provoking story (though the story reaches a bit far at times it is, afterall, a fantasy film). Oh, and was it mentioned already that Abraham Lincoln is a bona fide bad ass?
The movie presents plenty of action packed scenes full of gory, stylized, slow-motion spurts of blood, beheadings, stabbings, and shootings. On this level – Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter succeeds as grade A action – this supposed man, our sixteenth President, just moved up the awesome ladder about fifty rungs! Everything action, fantasy, and horror fans need is here – and there’s at least one genuine scene to make viewers jump. So what is it about the film that just doesn’t quite work? It’s the same thing that helps it succeed – odd, no?
The farfetched story feels a wee bit cheap, but even its cheapest moments it leaves viewers wondering about the truth. Did Abraham’s mother really die when he was a child? Yes, from milk sickness (a severe intestinal pain that affects people who’ve ingested milk or beef containing tremetol – a toxin found in the plant snakeroot, which contaminates the milk and meat of cattle), but the basic factual structure is present and challenges a viewer’s knowledge of American history at every turn – whether by names or events. Then, of course, there are those moments when Abraham and company are tasked with insurmountable odds and thrilling obstacles – things that engross the viewer and create tension, no matter how ridiculous they may seem.
Thanks to the timing – and incredibly quick to theater (only two years between book and film) release – Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter is likely to become a rightful cult classic (likely on par with Donnie Darko) in the years and decades ahead, if for no other reason than for its entertainment value. Factual? Somewhat. Thought-provoking? Always. Farfetched? Definitely. But it should be added that Benjamin Walker breathes a life and voice into Abraham that feels genuinely historical, is compelling, and unique. Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter is rated R for violence and brief sexuality.
[AUTHOR’S NOTE: I really quite enjoyed this film and commend the screenwriter, director, and actors for providing originality and quality entertainment in a film market composed of remakes, re-boots, and sequels. And if that’s not enough, there are some really nice shots throughout to keep some film enthusiasts pleased. Oh, and it’s worth mentioning that I was inspired enough to review it!]