PLOT: ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER explores the secret life of our greatest president, and the untold story that shaped our nation. Visionary filmmakers Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov team up to bring a fresh and visceral voice to the bloodthirsty lore of the vampire, imagining Lincoln as history's greatest hunter of the undead. Benjamin Walker, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell, Anthony Mackie, and Dominic Cooper star.
REVIEW: Are you capable of accepting a film built on the idea Abraham Lincoln was a badass axe-wielding vampire hunter? I only ask because if your answer is “No” then there is absolutely no reason you need to bother seeing ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER. This is a film built and centered on a single crazy-ass idea and if you’re not capable of fully accepting that single crazy-ass idea then you’ll likely find yourself hating every single minute of this flick.
But that having been said, those who said “Yes”, like myself, will have a great time with what director Timur Bekmambetov, producer Tim Burton, and writer Seth Grahame-Smith (who wrote the novel this is based off of) have whipped up.
What I loved most about this flick (and there is a lot to love) is Bekmambetov (known mostly for WANTED but I whole-heartedly suggest you check out NIGHTWATCH and DAYWATCH to see the true insanity this man is capable of) decided to play everything super straight. A lesser filmmaker would’ve went with cheesy one-liners (“Emancipate this!” or maybe even “I’m not that honest”), cheap gags (I honestly waited the entire film for a moment when Abe would slump back into a throne-esque chair and re-create the Lincoln Memorial), and easy twists (I’m quite glad that the book’s ending, which revealed Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth was a vampire, was ditched in favor of something more somber and heartfelt) but not Bekmambetov. Dude plays it totally seriously, reserving the over-the-top moments for the wild action sequences, and never once collapses into camp territory. Good call. That’s what separates “camp classics” from “cult classics”.
Lead Benjamin Walker is so good he almost had me convinced I was watching a true blue re-telling of his story …one that just so happened to be punctuated with silver-tipped axe beatdowns and the Earth-shattering reveal that the reason the Confederacy almost won the Civil War was because they teamed up with an undead army.
Yeah, I know all that stuff isn’t real. Fiction and whatnot. And sure, Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln flick with Daniel Day Lewis is set to release later this year and will likely earn all the accolades and glory and will be the truer Lincoln adaptation and …wouldn’t it have been cool if THIS was real story? I mean, the real REAL story! That’s what made this flick totally work for me.
I mean, just think about it, Lincoln was already a real-life superhero. He freed the slaves, protected the Union, promoted economic and financial modernization, made huge strides for equal rights. Great things done by a great man but wouldn’t it have been EVEN greater had Lincoln been slaying evil vamps (no sparkly do-gooders here) in his downtime? Anyone, no matter how amazing they are in reality or fiction, is automatically cooler when they are revealed to be a vampire hunter. Especially when they are revealed to be the baddest badass hunter this side of Blade.
That’s the magic of ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER. It’s so good you’ll wish it was what really happened. Oh sure, there’s oodles of insane action beats (like the flaming train finale and the moment where one vamp literally THROWS A MOTHERF*CKING HORSE AT LINCOLN!) and “doesn’t totally jive with what really happened” plot trickery (the real Mary Todd was nowhere near as hot as Mary Elizabeth Winstead and was less kick-ass War supporter and more bipolar manic depressive) to constantly remind you of the fiction but the quieter moments are so well done you might actually, just for a minute or two, forget this isn’t a legit Lincoln biopic.
Now that my “Boy, I wish there had been a real vampire war!” fanboys ranting is over, let’s get down to brass tacks. ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER is not for everybody. While the acting is top notch (not a dud performance in the whole film), the plot believable and interesting (the backstory of Henry and the Abe/Lincoln courtship being the standout subplots), and the action hot (Bekmambetov embraces the R fully and delivers what is probably the most gore-soaked film of the summer), the crazy-ass premise is something that needs to be fully accepted before entering the theater. Don’t accept it and you’ll just end up wasting your money. Accept ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER for what it is and you should have a blast. I know I did.