Raven McCoy Buries A Stake In ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER!!
Last summer while I was waiting to board a flight I came across the book ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER in one of those overpriced airport bookstores. I had forgotten to bring any kind of reading material but it looked like the most interesting book available so I bought it. The book ended up being one of the best books I read that year. I loved it for its ability to plausibly edit history and insert supernatural creatures. It gave a whole new background to many of the events that occurred in Lincoln's life while still grounding it in the history we know. It was so smart and inventive and gave me a whole new interest in our sixteenth president, even if it was all fake. So I was super excited to hear that it was being adapted into a movie and by the author no less. However after seeing DARK SHADOWS earlier this year I started to get a little worried. Seth Grahame-Smith, author of AL:VH, wrote the script of DARK SHADOWS and it was a mess! The characters had zero depth, the story was thin and it was incredibly boring. I am extremely disappointed to say that AL:VH followed suit.
This is a story that depicts how vampires have permeated Honest Abe’s life since he was a little boy starting with the death of his mother at the hands of one. After her death he becomes determined to rid the world of vampires, one kill at a time. Only problem is he’s terrible at hunting vampires, barely making it out alive after his first hunt, and it’s only after meeting a “good” vampire named Henry that he learns how vampires operate, what their weaknesses are and how to properly kill one. Henry becomes his mentor, giving him hunting assignments and guidance. But Abe wants more. He wants to be a lawyer so he learns to balance hunting with his career. As Abe becomes more successful, becoming a politician and eventually president, while also falling in love with Mary Todd, he wants less and less to do with vampires. He wants to lead a normal life but that’s not possible anymore, as the Southern vampires have caught wind of his aspirations to eliminate slavery, a business that has been providing them with a great source of food, and in no way want him to succeed. They do all that they can stop Lincoln, going so far as to harming his family and participating in the Civil War as soldiers to ensure a swift victory for the South. The Northern aka “good” vampires believe in Lincoln’s vision and he’s forced to align with them to protect not only his family but also his country.
I was never one for biographies or politics but the above story that Grahame-Smith writes is absolutely thrilling and exciting to read so I was absolutely baffled at how he was able to take his own story and completely fuck it up on screen. You can try to blame the director Timur Bekmambetov and Tim Burton’s involvement for the film being so dreadful but I place full blame on Grahame-Smith. How do you fuck up your own material?!?!
The movie fails because it simply comes off as a bunch of broad scenes taken from Lincoln’s life that is then filled in with vampires. It bounces from one scene to another without creating any kind of meaningful connection with Abe or the other characters. It moves around Abe’s life long enough to show us that something happened but never giving us enough to get attached to Abe or care about what’s going on. Within the first ten minutes we see Abe (Benjamin Walker) go from being a child to a drunk, angry teenager/twenty-something barely surviving his first attempt at killing Jack Barts, the vampire who killed his mother. There’s no explanation as to what Abe had been doing in that huge gap of time, if he’d encountered other vampires in that time, if he’d researched vampires or anything. No, now he’s an angry young man out to kill. And boom! In his first attempt to kill a vampire he meets his mentor Henry (Dominic Cooper), whom he has no idea is a vampire (naïve much?) but automatically accepts Henry’s offer to learn how to kill vampires. Abe doesn’t even question how Henry knows this. He’s just like “oh you know how to kill them? Awesome! I don’t care that you wear lots of sunscreen outside or strange sunglasses or somehow have this intimate knowledge of vampires. Teach me sensei.”
Now one does not become an expert vampire hunter overnight. At least I would imagine so. You have to train, learn their weakness and attack methods and how to wield certain weapons. Cue obligatory training sequence. While I'm fine with a training montage, it needs to happen, what didn't sit right with me is how inconsistent Abe's skill level is shown. After barely being strong enough to fend off Jack Barts days earlier and hardly being able to spare with Henry, Abe is shown to almost immediately have the strength to chop down a tree in one swoop. That type of strength takes time to cultivate but this boy does it within minutes of learning to wield an axe. If you want to make this somewhat realistic at least show him practicing over time, getting stronger and stronger and then eventually cutting down the tree. Not have him chop it down in the first go.
Throughout the rest of the film Abe is portrayed as being a very strong and skilled man but never superhuman like the vampires. Yet in another battle with Barts during a horse stampede, Abe literally has a horse thrown at him. It rolls right into him but somehow he magically appears on top of it to ride the horse right back at Barts. And THEN these two bounce from horse back to horse back as if they're jumping from stone to stone across a pond. What the fuck? I'll allow the vampires to do that because they're supernatural but not Abe. You're good but not that good.
One of the things I enjoyed most about the book was finding out the different ways vampires had assimilated into society and how they had all these secret lairs where they killed their victims or means of collecting human blood. The first time Abe hunts we get to see one such lair and it was scary and upsetting to witness but also fascinating. I thought this was setting the tone for the rest of the film. We’ll get to see all these creepy dungeons and the ways in which they prolong their victim’s deaths, pero no. You get just that one and then all you see from then on are the dead bodies after his hunts. Half way through the movie Abe stops hunting entirely and only resumes killing because the vampires have taken someone from him. Excuse me? This is called ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER. I better see him hunting some motherfucking vampires.
Of course any good hero needs sidekicks to help them fight evil and Abe has two, the first being Joshua Speed (Jimmi Simpson), whose character motives constantly flip flops in the little screen time he has. The second is the entirely pointless Will played by Anthony Mackie. Will is a slave Abe grew up with who seeks out Abe to get a writ of freedom because some bounty hunters want to arrest him. Abe says he will help him but we never see it happen and then it's entirely forgotten from the story. There is no other depth to Will other than he was a former slave who Abe knew yet he is kept in the story despite adding dick to the story. He's just there to fight vampires with Abe, even though we never see Abe training him. He is an empty and pointless character that replaced a much more interesting character from the book, Jack Armstrong.
Dominic Cooper is fine as Henry and the film even adds a nice little scene that looks into his backstory but once again Grahame-Smith fails to give the events any kind of meaning or significance other than they happened. The scene explores Henry’s first encounter with the film’s villain, Adam (Rufus Sewell), who may be the first vampire ever (get it?) but gives no real reason as to why Adam and Henry are meeting in the first place or how they came to be adversaries in the present.
Speaking of adversaries, Abe falls in love with Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) but she’s already engaged to the politician Stephen Douglas (an underused Alan Tudyk) so you’d think Douglas would become a political and romantic rival for Abe. It would make Abe’s all too easy task of wooing Mary Todd more difficult and later down the road, give the Southern vampires a politician to work with in hopes of taking down Abe. But that would cause Abe to struggle and take all the villainous focus away from Adam so just like that Tudyk’s gone from the story and so too is an extra dimension to the story.
Perhaps I was spoiled by reading the book. I came in knowing so much about Abe's vampire history. I knew about the different journeys he'd been on, the people he'd met along the way and the tales of other vampires in history. I knew that all of this couldn't be included but I expected the movie to be a streamlined cohesive story that was an exciting, playful and intriguing look into a president’s past and the untold history of the US. Was that too much to ask for? Apparently so, because what I got was a choppy, boring adaptation that literally sucked the life out of such a fantastic book.
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June 22, 2012, 2:55 p.m. CST
June 22, 2012, 2:56 p.m. CST
June 22, 2012, 3:11 p.m. CST
He didn't like it because it was a shallow reflection of the source material and a poorly executed shallow reflection at that.
June 22, 2012, 3:15 p.m. CST
it could either be cool like blade, or a shitfest like van helsing can anyone WHO HAS SEEN THE MOVIE weigh in?
June 22, 2012, 3:41 p.m. CST
Eight isn't enough. I think we need to go for an even dozen, Harry. Seems like an interesting concept that was badly fugged up in the execution. I think the biggest knock is an uncharismatic lead that just doesn't scream that he is going to be THAT Abe Lincoln some day. Should have upped the budget enough to get a better actor.
June 22, 2012, 3:45 p.m. CST
I can't stress enough how awful this movie is. "Cinematic abortion" isn't even a strong enough term. But if you are looking for a hilarious comedy, you can't do much better. Even though it isn't funny on purpose.
June 22, 2012, 3:58 p.m. CST
Lame film. No development, no logic, no hook. The joke expires about 5 minutes in. Do yourselves a favor and go see BRAVE, or even AVENGERS again.
June 22, 2012, 4:01 p.m. CST
Yeah, I guess so Raven, unless its a very thin tree.
June 22, 2012, 4:21 p.m. CST
Do you really think that he, a neophyte screenwriter, wrote this movie on his own, and chose to avoid the very things that made the book successful? Are you daft? It's pretty clear to me that he was run over by the heavyweights (producers and directors) and had limited choice as to the end result. Most neophyte screenwriters, when told to put a monkey in a spacesuit in the movie, do exactly as their told. Graham-Smith did the same, no doubt. If you doubt that, you've got no idea about how movies get made.
June 22, 2012, 4:47 p.m. CST
The process is quite simple. 1. Sign contract in which you give up the copyright of your story to major motion picture company. 2. Collect check. 3. Laugh as you go all the way to the bank.
June 22, 2012, 4:50 p.m. CST
June 22, 2012, 4:57 p.m. CST
June 22, 2012, 5 p.m. CST
June 22, 2012, 5:06 p.m. CST
June 22, 2012, 5:33 p.m. CST
It felt like it was rushed and nothing was developed, but a lot of fun ideas. Lots of laughs. Especially when Abe punches a hole through a vampire's chest.
June 22, 2012, 5:38 p.m. CST
but first i'll need to smoke a few bongs of white widow, and hopefully not remember.
June 22, 2012, 7:10 p.m. CST
it's bad enough that they ease the guilt of slave owners by turning slavery into a vampire conspiracy to use Africans as food, but it's when they make a vampire the cause of the death of Lincoln's little boy that it went too far. that was beyond bad taste and into the territory of cruel disrespect i enjoyed the vampire slaying moments. but as soon as they ended and the movie went back to being about real people it just turned uncomfortable to watch.
June 22, 2012, 7:15 p.m. CST
Don't follow any of these reviews by the AICN'ers. They're too busy this week sucking off the teat of the very overrated Pixar.
June 22, 2012, 7:34 p.m. CST
Have you ever met a movie that you've actually liked? Holy shit. You complain like my ex-wife.
June 22, 2012, 9:46 p.m. CST
..not even, you can turn off your brain and kind of enjoy it as a spoof terrible. It is unwatchably terrible with every cliche you can imagine horribly done. Perhaps you enjoyed the book and want to see the movie? Don't. My wife read the book and said it does not follow the book at all, except the title and a few characters.
June 22, 2012, 11:43 p.m. CST
they bought a "book" called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer...and then to proceed to profess it constitutes some form of legitimate literature. What is wrong with you people? Well, not all of you...just you people who think shit like this is worth the paper it is printed on. The WORST Stephen King novel ever written is like Charles Dickens, or Shakespeare, compared to this dreck! P.S. -- For the record, I am a fan of many Stephen King novels and short stories. I hear they are making an actual movie based upon the excellent book "In the Heart of the Sea." Why are people reading stuff like this, instead of fucking CRAP like this bullshit. To call it a pulp novel would be insulting all the great pulp novels ever written. For those even more "daring", try reading James Dickey's "To the White Sea". Don't know what made me cite this novel...but probably has something to do with the previous nautical title (although it doesn't take place on the ocean). Better yet...how about "Men Against the Sea", which is the sequel to "Munity on the Bounty", and details the incredible open boat voyage of Captain Bligh and his loyal crew. Again, not sure why I am on this nautical theme, but at least it is real history, recounted in a semi-fictional narrative (point of view) ....Rant Over.
June 22, 2012, 11:46 p.m. CST
stuff like this. Fuck the fact that this site has not fucking EDIT function.
June 23, 2012, 1:04 a.m. CST
by Julius Dithers
I kid, I kid.
June 23, 2012, 8:56 a.m. CST
He may have been just the producer but you can see Burtons influence, the gut is sooo past his sel by date and just because Seth Grahame-Smith can write a book, doesnt mean he can do a screen play, hence epic fail.
June 23, 2012, 10:09 a.m. CST
by Bob Craft
June 23, 2012, 11:48 a.m. CST
Would've benefited greatly from being made into an HBO miniseries or similarly protracted format. You're trying to cover entirely too much ground, the events of an extended period of time, in a mere 2-hours. Doesn't leave you much time for developing characters, establishing context, creating a sense of place, and all the other stuff essential to investing an audience. Instead, you get a disjointed series of events, ticking off bullet points to highlight an assortment of moments, and hoping it all comes together in a way that both makes sense and connects with an audience. Not to say such a thing can't be done in a 2- or 2-and-a-half hour movie, but it takes way more skill than I think anyone involved in the project was capable of executing. Which is a damn shame. Could've been something special.
June 23, 2012, 12:21 p.m. CST
by Peter David
Notes. Countless notes from everyone up and down the chain of command, all of which have to be implemented even though they can conflict. Notes saying "This doesn't work. And this doesn't work. And does it have to be this way?" Writing a book is the purest form of conveying a story directly to your audience, short of sitting in a park and just telling it. Movies are probably the least direct. Writers (not writer/directors) have no power and no control. The lowliest assistant producer has more say in the final script that the writer does. And then once you've done your first draft, second pass and polish, the director decides to bring in his favorite script doctor to make changes. And depending on the film, the star may have his (or her) writer in to do fixes. And then the studio comes back and says there are cost overruns and scenes have to be scaled back or cut altogether. More rewrites, and then rewrites of the rewrites. And at the end of it all, the Writers Guild makes a determination of who the credited writer(s) should be. And in this case they decide sole credit goes to this one guy since it's still fundamentally his story. And it says "Written by," but what it does not say is, "with contributions and rewrites of varying quality from" and six other names are listed. Years ago a novel of mine, "Howling Mad," was optioned for a film. It had werewolves and vampires in it. My deal called for me to write the first draft. And I was told right at the outset, "Lose the vampire." I was stunned; Why, I said, should I lose the vampire?" And I was told, "It's too much. You've got a world where vampires exist; it's too much to expect audiences to buy a world where vampires AND werewolves exist." Pointing out countless film precedent where that was the case, going all the way back to "Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein," would not sway them. And of course this was long before Underworld and Twilight and even Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And I had to write the script the way they insisted because otherwise I'd have been in violation of contract. Their notes were so extensive that the screenplay bore NO resemblance to the novel. It never got made, thank God. So taking out all your ire on the one writer really isn't justified. Because here's a Hollywood truism: If the film is brilliant, the director gets the credit. If it sucks, the writer gets the blame. PAD
June 23, 2012, 2:53 p.m. CST
Vampires are the oppressors in the living human/undead vampire dichotomy. You can't be an Uncle Tom if you are a member of the dominant group. So Henry would have to be the vampire equivalent of a N***** lover.
June 23, 2012, 3:59 p.m. CST
You just THINK you know because certain people want you to believe that being an "Uncle Tom" is a BAD thing. You've certainly not read the book "Uncle Tom's Cabin," or you'd know that it's anti-slavery and that Tom is actually portrayed as a hero. The negative connotation associated with this book is just another way that certain people with a certain ideology try to convince black people that being good and Christian or striving to live the best possible life is a bad thing.
June 23, 2012, 5:25 p.m. CST
June 23, 2012, 7:46 p.m. CST
Really? I was expecting it to be Oscar worthy. Of course it has no logic and is lame because it is Abe Lincoln vampire hunter, duh...
June 23, 2012, 7:46 p.m. CST
June 23, 2012, 8:16 p.m. CST
Brilliant post, and 100 percent true.
June 23, 2012, 10:07 p.m. CST
Gee....let's call George Lucas.
June 23, 2012, 11:28 p.m. CST
Waaaahhhhhhhh! Are you reviewing the book, the movie or the book to screen comparison? Because honestly all I hear is the typical "It wasn't exactly like the book" Oh and...waaaaahhhhhhh
June 24, 2012, 12:32 a.m. CST
Pretty much everything you might want from a movie about Abraham Lincoln fighting vampires. My only complaint is that, while I liked the faux serious tone of the film, I thought they could have made it a little less deadpan at times and upped the comedy factor a la Evil Dead or Brain Dead. Still, I would give it a solid three stars. Also, it would have been funny to have Obama be the new vampire hunter trainee at the very end, or at least a guy that sort of resembled him. Also, the Linkin Park song played over the credits was terrible.
June 24, 2012, 2:34 a.m. CST
For some reason this film gives off the vibe of that shit Sean Connery film The League of Extraordinary Gentleman ...
... it has that same over abundance of unconvincing CGI and characters that should be interesting but aren't. Also the knee-jerk vibe from the trailers is that it's going to be a mess of a film, which apparently it has turned out to be. Still, my curiosity will mean I'll have to check it out on Blu eventually.
June 24, 2012, 2:43 a.m. CST
Of course when we do get a pure script to screen without fucktards getting in the way it still doesn't necessarily mean it will be good, but there's certainly a higher chance that it will at least be more coherent than a film with 17 rewrites by a dozen writers. I guess there's always the chance that this film didn't have producers (etc) getting all their shitty ideas into the screenplay, perhaps the author just wasn't good at translating his own material into another medium. I guess sometimes an external writer who loves the source material and had more experience writing screenplays could turn out better ... who knows, maybe this guys has written numerous (bad?) screenplays (Dark Shadows and others?).
June 24, 2012, 9:41 a.m. CST
To give a geekoid movie a quick name. "AL:VH" is that secret code for geek gossip and initiating a game of tummy sticks . So if i am not a fan boy, I suppose I am a douche bag by your definitions. Keep jerking off nerds, and the douche bags will keep the real pussy warm for you.
June 24, 2012, 6:45 p.m. CST
Wow...if that's really you...that's awesome of you to comment...love your work dude...and love the post...very informative!
June 24, 2012, 8 p.m. CST
Barack Obama - Tiger Woods Guy George Washinton - Werewolf Hunter George Bush - Muslim Conspirator
June 25, 2012, 3:41 a.m. CST
Well the trailer looked poor. Just saw Warth of the Titans. What a fucking Mess. Just Piss Poor on every level.
June 25, 2012, 10:48 a.m. CST
by Stephanie Ann Diaz
Well said Raven...well said!!! You were able to verbalize what i was thinking...good job :D
June 25, 2012, 10:38 p.m. CST
How about the sequel be Abe Lincoln Twilght Vampire killer. The plot? He travels to the future and kills those stupid sprakly vampires. The end.
June 25, 2012, 10:39 p.m. CST
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