Review: Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter

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For those who complained that the script for Prometheus was stupid, I present to you Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer, which makes the other film seem like a post-doctoral research paper. Seth Grahame-Smith, one of my many culprits in this cinematic abomination, seems to have fashioned his screenplay using a child’s biography of the 16th President and a description of an episode of True Blood, as told to him by an idiot.

The film is based on Grahame-Smith’s novel, and directed by the distinctly untalented Timur Bekmambetov. I have no idea if the book has any charms, other than the snort-worthy title, but the film has nothing going for it.

As imagined by Grahame-Smith, Lincoln’s mother was killed by a vampire for helping a black boy escape a whipping. It seems that vampires had been in the New World since the beginning, and now live largely in the South, so then can snack on slaves. Lincoln (played dully by Benjamin Walker) grows up, vowing to avenge his mother’s death, and runs into a full-time vampire hunter, played by Dominic Cooper, who teaches him the ways of the hunter, as if he were a frontier Mr. Miyagi. A scene involving Cooper prodding Lincoln to chop down a tree is one of the worst scenes of dialogue I’ve seen in many years, and the following training montage is almost as dreadful.

We learn that vampires can only be killed by silver, going back to the 30 pieces of silver Judas received for betraying Jesus. As with all vampire movies, their powers and weaknesses are chosen from a buffet–in this film, they do not have a big problem with sunlight (they do all wear shades), don’t turn into bats, but can turn invisible, clothing and all, a pretty neat trick.

Cooper enlists Lincoln as a vampire hunter, sending him names of those bloodsuckers in Springfield. Lincoln finally gets the man who killed his mother, and puts his axe away (he uses an axe because he’s not much good with guns). However, the head vampire (Rufus Sewell), is behind the scenes in making sure the South secedes, because he doesn’t want to lose his food supply. So now the answer to the question, “What caused the Civil War?” can be answered simply, “Vampires.”

Lincoln, now president, understands he must wipe out the nefarious demons and pushes the war forward. But the war doesn’t go well when Jefferson Davis enlists Sewell to use his kind as troops. They defeat the Union on the first day of Gettysburg, and Lincoln realizes the only thing that can stop them is silver bullets. So, in one of many ludicrous scenes, he has all the silver in Washington confiscated and melted down into ammunition in time for Pickett’s Charge, which is less than 48 hours later.

There are too many stupidities to list here. Of course it’s not going to be completely historically accurate, given that vampires are involved, and Grahame-Smith includes just enough facts to keep the historically literate from screaming bloody murder. But really. Lincoln is attended in the White House only by that black boy all grown up (Anthony Mackie, playing Will Johnson, who was Lincoln’s valet, but not his aide-de-camp) and Joshua Speed, who was Lincoln’s law partner in real life, but as far as I know never visited Washington. There is no mention of Edwin Stanton, John Hay, or any of the other cabinet members. Also, a plot involves Lincoln’s son Will, who died while Lincoln was president. There is no mention that Lincoln had three other sons.

As for the depiction of Mary Todd, well, she should be happy beyond the grave. She’s played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and if you’ve seen photos of Mary Lincoln, you’ll know that’s awfully flattering. Mrs. Lincoln, who was a tragic figure who certainly must have suffered from manic depression, is played by Winstead as a plucky and dutiful spouse, who is also handy with a rifle.

Those are just the problems with the script. Bekmambetov has no idea how to put together an action sequence. I hated that he included Matrix-like slow motion as Lincoln whirls about swinging his axe, and two scenes are so ridiculously over the top it’s a wonder anyone signed off on them. One has Lincoln chasing a vampire as they both run across a stampede of horses–on the horses’ backs. Similarly, the climax has Lincoln, Johnson and Speed racing across the boxcars of a train as it races across a burning and collapsing bridge. Not only is the history bad, so is the physics.

What’s most disappointing, though, is that with a title like this you would think it would at least be good-bad, but no, there is nothing cool or fun about it. The movie ends with Lincoln going off to the theater (in a groaner, the last line of dialogue is Mary calling, “We’ll be late for the theater!”) so a sequel seems to be ruled out. But the creative team missed an opportunity–why not show John Wilkes Booth, after shooting Lincoln, to reveal a set of fangs? When I can write the script better than the professionals, I know I’ve wasted my money.

My grade for Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter: F.

About Jackrabbit Slim

Location: Vegas, Baby! I’m much older than the other whippersnappers here, a baby boomer. I tend to be more snobbish about film, disdaining a lot of the multiplex fare for “cinema.” My favorite films: Woody Allen’s oeuvre (up until about 1990), The Godfather, The Graduate, A Hard Day’s Night, Pulp Fiction. Politics: Well, George McGovern was my political hero. I’m also a prickly atheist. Occupation: Poised to be an English teacher in Las Vegas. For many years I was an editor at Penthouse Magazine. My role on this blog seems to be writing lots of reviews and being the resident Oscar maven.

12 responses »

  1. This is the first film you’ve reviewed here that you’ve given an F.

    What was the last film you’ve seen at the cinema that would’ve got such a rating?

  2. I rarely give out Fs; about as rarely as I give out A+s, as I figure I’m saying the movie couldn’t possibly be any worse. I don’t know if it was the last one, but I did give the Eddie Murphy movie Coming to America an F.

  3. It’s funny because the general consensus (mine as well) is that Coming to America is one of Murphy’s better vehicles. It’s a shame you don’t remember what rubbed you the wrong way, I’m curious.

    I do appreciate you taking one for the team by seeing AL:VH. You should get an extra bonus point in AGEBOC for your efforts.

  4. Wow, an F. I mean, I expect that kind of thing from Brian, but from you? Not even Murphy spitting out under Jewish whiteface about Muhammad Ali didn’t make you chuckle once?

  5. Bear in mind I’ve never seen Murphy’s more egregious films, like Pluto Nash, Daddy Day Care, or any of the Doctor Dolittle films. I may have to invent a new grade for those. I did like 48 Hrs. and Beverly Hills Cop (the first one).

  6. I liked ‘Coming to America’ too – certainly one of Murphy’s best films (not saying much admittedly) and Landis’ last notable one imo.

    If he ever gets the opportunity, it would be interesting to see JS review CTA now and see whether his dislike of it is as strong now as it was then.

  7. It would probably be worse. CTA is like most comedies (especially 80’s ones) – a product of their times. Very few transcend the decade and if it wasn’t funny then, or doesn’t hold some nostalgic quality, it probably won’t be funny now. But the barber shop scenes, Soul Glo, the Sexual Chocolate scene (Jackson Heights’ own Mr. Randy Watson!), all McDowell’s scenes, Sam Jackson’s iconic robbery…I’m laughing just thinking about them..

  8. I’m laughing just thinking about them as I read you writing about how you’re thinking about them.

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