I really can’t believe how much I loved ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER, but on the other hand, I really can.
The mash-up literature that Seth Grahame-Smith has been authoring had never really appealed to me. In fact in an odd way, I found it off-putting. I get sent mounds of books, films & just stuff that people want me to write about or talk about on AICN and when PRIDE, PREJUDICE & ZOMBIES was published – it was sent to me about 7 times. When ABRAHAM LINCOLN VAMPIRE HUNTER came 5 times – I just could never really bring myself to read them. Just the titles and the covers – made me think this was some manner of joke. When Tim Burton came on as a producer for the film, this kind of confirmed the joke in my brain, but when Timur Behmambetov signed to direct – the project had my highest attention. Timur’s use of cinema is rather extraordinary. If, for some insane reason, you haven’t seen NIGHT WATCH or DAY WATCH or WANTED, get them into your media viewing device of choice and behold. I’ve met some folks that didn’t enjoy NIGHT WATCH or DAY WATCH, but when you know how little money Timur had to make those… and that – he came out of nowhere with those movies. I saw them before any hype and just fell in love. The intricate nature of the production design, the amazingly fun visual effects and the inventive manner in which they were implemented made me watch those films… a whole lot. WANTED had a wacky premise to me, the notion of curving the trajectory of a bullet was goofy, but damn if Timur didn’t make me love it in his film.
Then at SXSW, I was backstage at the Paramount Theater to moderate an infamous post-screening Q&A with the cast of William Friedkin’s KILLER JOE – when suddenly I was introduced to Caleb Deschanel, the brilliant cinematographer responsible for THE RIGHT STUFF, THE NATURAL and so many others… I love Directors of Photography. They’re able to capture the most amazing lights and shadows – and the result is something that just makes a film EPIC or MAJESTIC. I asked him what he had coming out that he was excited about and he said he loved working on ABRAHAM LINCOLN VAMPIRE HUNTER – and he began describing a couple of the sequences that he was most proud of the look of… and man, when you see them in the film… Yeah, you’ll be drunk in love with it – unless you make the mistake of assuming it is all CG. Amazing what a Brilliant Cinematographer can capture.
After that I was dying to see more – as the trailers and clips came out – I realized, the period and the iconic nature of Lincoln’s physique and attire and beard… Holy Shit, this is looking cool.
Still, I was worried though. Even a week or so before I saw the film, I got a letter from Seth saying that either way, if I loved it or hated it, he was dying to hear what I thought. But there was something in his letter that made me worry and doubt that it was going to be killer cool.
Going in to see ABRAHAM LINCOLN VAMPIRE HUNTER, I had a curiousity. If the story was being handled straight – how was Seth going to weave Vampire Mythology into Lincoln History? And, would it feel goofy?
I should not have been worried. Timur’s film is not some pussy vampire story. These vampires, they’re horrific. They’re not necessarily boyfriend material. These vampires are making a play to control their own country. Lincoln is fighting for the soul of the country. He also has a person vendetta in play. As the film played out – and I began to discover & remember my Lincoln history, I was delighted to see how some of the various characters from his historical background came into play.
Benjamin Walker’s Abraham Lincoln is a force. He’s haunted, driven, ferocious and powerful. AND he’s charming, smart, handsome and downright romantic. He embues his Young Mr Lincoln with a strange uncertainty about his life. As though Lincoln doesn’t know he’s going to lead the country one day. He’s frankly focused upon killing vampires and learning the power of Truth. He’s studying to be a lawyer, on the off chance that the Vampire Killing trade doesn’t payoff. He begins flirting with a young Mary Todd played by the beautiful Mary Elizabeth Winstead. She’s the primary force in changing Abe’s direction in life. Mary and Walker have a dynamite connection. One that sort of reminds me of Christopher Reeve & Jane Seymour in SOMEWHERE IN TIME, but the film’s love of Vampiric action and horror keep us from getting too caught up in their romance, but what is here… works and convinces us that they were an amazing couple. Benjamin Walker reminds me of a young Liam Neeson in the role – there are times, where he feels and looks exactly like a BOUNTY or EXCALIBUR era Liam Neeson, but playing a later Neeson style role. If that makes sense. It does to me.
Also, Lincoln has an advisor… that’s training him how to kill Vampires, how to detect them. He gives him Vampire Jedi training with that rather awesome fucking axe. This character is Henry Sturgess, and he’s played by the great Dominic Cooper. Dominic has quickly become one of my favorite actors working. I first became aware of him when I saw THE DEVIL’S DOUBLE, months early. His performance in that was absolutely electrifying. Then, I just loved his Howard Stark in CAPTAIN AMERICA. I also loved his slimey controlling agent/ex-lover of Marilyn Monroe in MY WEEK WITH MARILYN – and again in this… Dominic is just wonderful. I love the twists and turns with his character, but more than anything, I really enjoy watching him do his thing on screen.
However – the big deal for me. The aspect of this film that just makes me smile and smile… it’s the action. The action is fucking insane. Crazy, impossible action – shot and captured in a truly beautiful manner. This isn’t some desaturated color drained flick. It loves golden and blue lighting. The smoke and dust – shot in moonlight and sunrise and sunset lighting is just gorgeous. The scene of Lincoln and Marton Csokas’ Jack Barts with the horses – just wow. Wow.
Overall, the film is so good that Father Geek has already seen it twice, he woke up and grabbed a ticket this morning for another screening – and frankly I’m a little envious – I would’ve loved to have seen it this morning. Can’t tonight, as I’m seeing Lon Chaney’s THE UNKNOWN. But I’ve got to get back to see this big a couple more times.
I love Vampire Slaying cinema, this R-rated addition to the genre is very welcomed indeed. There’s a sense of sadness with the film that I love. All great Vampire Slayer stories do. Some bit of tragedy that drives those to dedicate their lives to putting out these demon spawned bastards back into the grave forever. The AXE-Fu and the cool manner that Lincoln looks as he does it… well, there’s no way there won’t be some Abe Lincoln blood soaked axe-wielding Halloweeners running around this October – and I’m especially hoping when the Trick or Treaters come, that I see a couple of Lincolns.
When I finished the film, I thought I was a bit crazy to love the film as much as I did, but then I saw Drew McWeeny’s tweets after he saw it – and knew… yeah, a lot of folks are gonna love this. If they give it a chance. Be prepared, Abe Lincoln is gonna kick your ass!