Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Review: Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter

Grade: A-
What was brilliant about The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks was how serious he took the subject of preparing for the inevitable zombie apocalypse.  He did not stop every other page to remind us that "zombies are not real", he left that to the CDC.  Instead he gave honest advice on how to deal with attacks by the undead.  This tongue-in-cheek humor turned the Guide into a hit, launched another novel, a comic book, collectibles and a movie deal.

In the summer of 2012, one film embodies the entertainment value of the Guide.  In Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, we begin by seeing the future American president, Abraham Lincoln, as a small boy.  After witnessing the murder of his mother by Jack Barts, young Abe vows revenge but his father makes him promise not to retaliate.  Eight year later, after his father dies, Abe decides to carry out his long-awaited revenge but is uprepared when he learns the truth about Barts: he is a vampire.  At the last second Abe is saved by an experienced vampire hunter, Henry Sturgess.

He explains that vampires have been infiltrating America since the beginning under the leadership of Adam, the father of all vampires in America.  Using the institution of slavery, vampires have managed to finally sate their blood lust by feeding off the slaves brought to work in the South.  The vampires, however, are starting to expand north and Sturgess needs disciples to fight them.  Abe pleads with Sturgess to train him how to fight, but only after Sturgess makes him promise to fight vampires on his terms and not carry out his own revenge schemes.  

After his training is complete, Lincoln moves to Springfield, IL where he gets a job working as a shopkeeper while studying the law.  This boring life is only a cover for his true mission: to eradicate the vampire presence in the town.  Lincoln comes to the realization, however, that it is not enough to behead one or two vampires.  As long as slavery exists in America, the vampire infestation will never disappear, so Lincoln breaks with his mentor to seek a career in politics.  He reaches for the White House to eradicate vampires once and for all...even if it means splitting the nation apart into a civil war.

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter was a delightful film blending the best of a summer action flick with a unique horror element.  The best part, however, were the laughs.  People who know their 19th century American history will find plenty to chuckle about, even if the rest of the audience misses the joke completely.  I lost count how many times I burst out laughing to a virtually silent theater, though I was not embarrassed because their were a couple of voices joined with mine to express their mirth.  Nevertheless, knowledge of history can hurt your ability to enjoy film at times.  For example, the film seems to imply that Lincoln had only one child.  Facts like that are annoying to those who know Lincoln, but are likely missed by the general audience.

Though I have not read the
novel by Seth Grahame-Smith that the film is based on, I have read his first mash-up novel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  Smith, who also wrote the screenplay of the film, managed to duplicate his tongue-in-cheek humor that so identifies his style of writing and translate it into a different medium.  The film stayed serious at all times.  I can see why Jeff Greenfield is worried that kids will grow up thinking one of the greatest American presidents spent his time in office fighting vampires.

Sadly the film has been poorly reviewed by critics (Ebert did give it a good review) and has had disappointing box office numbers.  Despite high audience ratings, Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter will likely be remembered as a flop.  Nevertheless, people who can embrace the absurd will find an enjoyable summer blockbuster and watch as the Great Emancipator is turned into the Dark Knight.  More importantly, you will regain your faith in vampire films after this.

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Matt Mitrovich is the founder and editor of Alternate History Weekly Update, a volunteer editor for Alt Hist and a contributor to Just Below the Law. His fiction can be found at Echelon PressJake's Monthly and his own writing blog. When not writing he works as an attorney and enjoys life with his beautiful wife Alana.


  1. The movie may be written by the author of the book, but they have almost nothing to do with one another.

    1. As I've said I have not read the novel, but I find books tend to be better than the films. That does not change the fact it was a good film.

  2. The book and the novel had a sort of passing acquaintance to each other, the characters are the same (altho a few are missing in the film) and the plot is vaguely the same. The changes for the movie make for a better action movie, but the book is better in places. The book's ending is a lot better (the one in the movie didn't make much sense), altho am not sure how it would have played out with the audience.

  3. Good review Mitro. This movie was a lot of fun, believe it or not, but whenever they focused on the plot/story/history, it got boring. Also, should have been as ridiculous as the title suggested.


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