Despite an underwhelming reaction by critics, I walked into Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter with high hopes. I had a feeling that the “rotten” status it’s garnered on a certain popular review website could have been the cause of one of two things:
1) Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was played perfectly straight – a somber tone at the forefront of an action/drama that takes the path of realism to tell a tale of absurdity.
2) Abraham Lincoln: Vamprie Hunter was played perfectly straight; He’s a mean mofo who battles the undead with his kick-ass kung fu moves and bullet-time supremacy.
Luckily (for us) Director Timur Bekmambetov has taken the “low road” in his historical reimagining. Abe Lincoln is terribly stupid, yes – borderline deficient as a film in and of itself – but that’s what makes it so goddamn satisfying.
It takes itself seriously, sure it re-writes the civil war as a method of freeing the slaves from an underground collusion of the undead, but it knows, it knooows that it’s basically one big joke. One big, heavily budgeted, well-directed, in your-face, schlock-tastic mother of a joke, and most people just aren’t sure how to rate that sort of thing.
How much you enjoy Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter all depends on how eager you are to see it. Yes, that goes without saying, but you need to open your mind, young one. Go in all scrunchy-faced and ready to point out how “silly this whole thing is” and you’ll no doubt have wasted your $11.
Go see it bright eyed and ready for some good-old alt-history pulp-fiction bullcrap, and – guess what – you’ll be glad you did. Every scene that seems like it’s trying to sell you on the concept of how much of a bad-ass Abe Lincoln was is going to seem like it’s winking you right in the face. Primarily, because it is. Seriously, with the exception of the tacked-on school-grade romance, it’s just an exercise in winking.
I mean, come on! He chops a tree in half with the power of “truth!” He spins an axe around in flourishes more than he uses it to actually cut anything! He runs atop a herd of stampeding horses, leaping across their backs in the form of a CGI puppet.
It’s the biggest waste of time, but it’s high in self-awareness. Therefore, it’s good.
Abe Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) is disturbed one night, to the sound and sight of his mother’s death. The cause? Vampires. “It was all the, man.” Taking a vow of revenge, he learns the art of vampire hunting from a skilled vigilante, by the name of Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper). Soon, he uncovers a conspiracy surrounding a legion of nightwalkers and their tasty, tasty slaves. Wishing to eradicate this underground menace once and for all, he undertakes his presidency, and causes revolution the world over.
“That sounds ridiculous.”
Astute observation, Doctor Stupid. Please, tell me more about how high your movie-going standards are.
Now, alright, to be fair, there is a lot to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter that’s worth mentioning besides its way of just playing itself up as an example of pushing the envelope beyond its recommended limits. It’s actually shot very well, and composed like something you’d see out of a Zack Snyder film. It’s very heavy on atmosphere, which lends to its larger than life tones very well. The actors could have had more fun with it, and the bits about Abe falling in love are worth cringing at, yes, (Mary Elizabeth Winstead could do much, much better), but to me, this seems like the definition of a love it or hate it film.
The guy I saw this with? Hated it. His reasons?
The same reasons that I loved this film for.
It might seem like a bit of a no-brainer but this sort of thing could have been handled much, much worse. If you were on the fence about seeing this film because you just didn’t want to be hurt again (It’s your fault, Cowboys and Aliens) then worry not, my good man. Abe Lincoln is exactly what it should be; the schlockiest schlock this side of schlock-ville, with a little cup of thematic depth that you can dip your crust in.
See it with the right mindset (Yell! Magazine does not condone drug use, kids!) and it’ll be laugh out loud funny. Expect something along the lines of a Sherlock Holmes style modern- redux and you’ll be resenting it for the rest of your days.
Look – there’s bad-ass a la Die Hard, and there’s bad-ass a la Shoot Em’ Up. Sometimes, you might as well seek refuge in audacity, and piss off a bunch of critics for good measure.
The Verdict: [rating:3]
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is an irreverent piece of work that’s handled surprisingly well. Whether you’re watching young Abe’s training montage or an old, bearded Abe fighting atop a speeding train, there’s always something to enjoy – or if you wanna be a dick about it, something to hate. It’s sure to wind up a cult classic (if anything) and we here at Yell! Magazine thoroughly approve of that shit.
I tip my hat to you, Timur Bekmambetov, but it bears mentioning that I’m not wearing any pants.
- Yell! Rating (x/5 Skulls):
- Year Released:
- 22 June 2012
- Timur Bekmambetov
- Benjamin Walker, Rufus Sewell, Anthony Mackie, Joseph Mawle, John Rothman, Curtis Harris, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Dominic Cooper
- Action, Horror, Fantasy
- Official URL:
- Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Official