Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):
In 1818, Abraham Lincoln lives in Indiana with his parents, Nancy (Robin McLeavy) and Thomas (Joseph Mawle), who works at a plantation owned by Jack Barts (Marton Csokas). There, Lincoln befriends a young African American boy, William Johnson, and intervenes when he sees Johnson being beaten by a slaver. Because of Lincoln’s actions, Thomas is fired by Barts, who demands that Thomas pay his debts to him. When Thomas refuses, Barts warns him that there are more than one way to collect a debt. That night, Lincoln sees Barts breaking into his house and attacking Nancy. Thomas finds her ill the following day, and she dies shortly afterwards. He blames Barts, and tells Lincoln that he poisoned Nancy.
Nine years later, after Thomas’ death, Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) decides to get revenge against Barts. He attacks Barts at the docks, but Barts overpowers him, revealing himself to be a vampire. However, before Barts can kill him, Lincoln is rescued by a man called Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), who takes Lincoln to his mansion. There, Sturgess reveals that vampires exist, and offers to teach Lincoln how to become a vampire hunter. Lincoln accepts, and, after 10 years of training, travels to Springfield, Illinois, in 1837, where he begins to slay vampires. During his training, Lincoln is told by Sturgess that the vampires that live in America descend from Adam (Rufus Sewell), a powerful vampire who owns a plantation in New Orleans with his sister, Vadoma (Erin Wasson). Lincoln also learns that vampires often feed off of the slaves. He informs Lincoln of the vampires’ weakness to silver, and presents Lincoln with a silver pocket watch.
In Springfield, Lincoln befriends shopkeeper Joshua Speed (Jimmi Simpson), and falls in love with Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who is also being courted by the politicial Stephen A. Douglas (Alan Tudyk). Barts is one of the vampires living in Springfield, and, upon learning of Lincoln’s presence, he begins to target Mary.
One day, Lincoln receives a visit from Johnson (Anthony Mackie), who now helps freed slaves to escape through the Underground Railroad. Johnson asks for Lincoln’s help to evade bounty hunters who were hired to eliminate him. Lincoln and Johnson defeat the bounty hunters, and Lincoln later tells Mary what happened. She encourages him to fight for his ideals, and Lincoln begins to speak against slavery. Sturgess visits him, and says that he needs to focus on his mission. Sturgess then provides Lincoln with Barts’ location.
Lincoln confronts Barts at a farm, where Barts is mortally wounded. Before dying, Barts reveals that Sturgess is a vampire as well. Lincoln confronts Sturgess, who reveals that, several years before, him and his lover were attacked by Adam, who bit them both. Because Sturgess’ soul wasn’t pure, he became a vampire, and that prevented him from harming his “creator” or any other vampire since as Adam stated, “Only the living can kill the dead”. Since then, Sturgess has been training vampire hunters in an effort to destroy Adam.
Lincoln, disappointed, decides to abandon his mission. However, Adam learns of his activities and captures Johnson in order to lure Lincoln into a trap at his plantation in New Orleans. Lincoln tells Speed the truth and they travel to Adam’s estate, where Lincoln is captured. However, Speed storms into the mansion and rescues Lincoln and Johnson, and the three escape back to Ohio. Lincoln’s watch, however, is left behind and found by Adam.
In Springfield, Lincoln marries Mary and hires Speed as his assistant and Johnson as his valet, allowing Johnson to continue his duties with the Underground Railroad undercover. Sturgess warns Lincoln that slaves are what keeps vampires under control, and if Lincoln interferes with that, there’ll be an uprising, but Lincoln ignores his warnings.
Lincoln defeats Douglas and is elected President of the United States of America. He signs the Emancipation Proclamation and moves to the White House with Mary, where they have a son, William Wallace Lincoln (Cameron M. Brown). Years later, in 1861, Willie is bitten by Vadoma, who leaves the watch behind to mock Lincoln. Sturgess offers to turn Willie into a vampire in order to save him, and although Mary wants him to, Lincoln stops him. Following their son’s death, Lincoln is blamed by his wife.
With the slaves freed, the vampires begin to attack all humans. Lincoln deploys his troops to confront the vampires, but the monsters gain the upper hand because of their supernatural powers. Sturgess tries to convince Lincoln to offer Adam a truce, but Lincoln refuses, and is informed that Adam’s army has repelled Lincoln’s forces in the Battle of Gettysburg. Lincoln then decides to confiscate all the silverware of the area and have it melted in order to produce silver bullets for the soldiers to use in the battlefield. Speed, believing that Lincoln will lead them to death, betrays him and informs Adam that Lincoln will transport the silver to Gettysburg in a train.
Adam and Vadoma watch as Lincoln reconciles with Mary, who leaves with the other slaves, and follow him to the train. Lincoln, Sturgess and Johnson fight Adam, Vadoma and other vampires, who have set a fire a few miles ahead while Speed, his betrayal a ruse, damages the train’s controls, hoping that it will crash against the fire and destroy the vampires. Adam kills Speed and fights Lincoln before being attacked by Sturgess. During the fight, Adam learns that there is no silver in the train, only rocks. Lincoln reveals that he lured Adam into a trap and stabs Adam with the weaponized watch. Lincoln, Johnson and Sturgess then jump out of the train before it explodes.
Adam dies, but Vadoma escapes, locates Mary, who had transported the silver to Gettysburg through the Underground Railroad, and tries to kill Mary there, but Mary kills the vampire first, using a rifle to shoot the silver toy sword of her deceased son, into Vadoma’s forehead.
With their leaders dead, the vampires become uncoordinated, and Lincoln leads the soldiers in a massive ambush. With their silver ammunition, the soldiers destroy the vampires and finally free America of them.
A few months later, on April 14, 1865, Sturgess congratulates Lincoln, revealing that the few remaining vampires have fled to other countries, and tries to convince Lincoln to allow him to turn Lincoln into a vampire, so Lincoln will become immortal and continue to help Sturgess to accomplish great things in the future. Lincoln refuses, and leaves for the theater with Mary, leaving Sturgess behind. That night, although not shown, Lincoln is killed by John Wilkes Booth.
Over a century later, in modern times, Sturgess locates a young man at a bar in Washington, D.C. and approaches him in the same way he once approached Lincoln, revealing that he’s still alive and training vampire hunters.
With a title like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, people are sure to think one of two things. The first idea is that this is either some kind of farcical nonsense meant to capitalize on this seemingly never-ending vampire craze (at the expense of President Lincoln). The other would be that this is something along the lines of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, just using Abraham Lincoln. Well, if you were wondering which is the truth, the answer is closer to the latter.
When news broke about this film being made, I was skeptical, especially since I had never read the graphic novel. As a matter of fact, I still haven’t. I’ll get around to it before this comes out on DVD, though…maybe.
As I was saying, it seems the title is very off-putting to many people, and may be one of this film’s biggest downfalls if it isn’t successful, which is really a shame. Why is it people can’t get over something so minor as a title? Seems to me there would be other things to concern yourself with about a film rather than the title.
So, what did I like?
Vampires. Remember the days, not so long ago, when vampires were cutthroat, evil beings as opposed to these sparkly, moody things that they apparently are today? Well, if there is one thing that can be said about this flick, is that it brings us some real vampires! It is totally awesome to see cold-hearted, bloodsucking, undead creatures again!
Abe. The vampire hunter stuff aside, most of what you know about Abraham Lincoln is here. They even throw in his honesty, freeing a slave boy, and touch a bit on his political views. I was totally expecting there to be some massive deviation from the history we all know. I can just imagine, though, that some history teachers are hoping and praying this doesn’t become a huge hit. It is hard enough teaching history as it is, can you imagine on a test some question about Lincoln and a kid answers that he was a vampire hunter?
Action. There is plenty of action to go around in this picture. If you’ve seen the trailer for this, then you know that the action is one of, if not the biggest selling point of this flick. There two sequences that really highlight the action, well three, now that I think about it. The first is when Abe is going after his mother’s killer (once he has finally learned how to be a vampire hunter). Jumping around a stampede of horses without losing a beat, or his axe. That was impressive! The second and third scenes involve the villain, Adam, played by Rufus Sewell. At his plantation, Abe gets to show off some slick and impressive moves, and then of course, there is that train that we’ve been seeing since the very first trailer came out. All of these will have your jaw dropping when you see them!
Acting. The entire cast turn in strong performances, but I was most impressed with newcomer Benjamin Walker (who happens to resemble Liam Neeson) and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. I can’t forget Rufus Sewell, either. The man was just made to play these debonaire, villanous roles that he can really, pardon the pun, sink his teeth into.
Take a look. Walker definitely looks the part of Lincoln, especially when he gets the beard. I’m sure no one reading this blog was around during Lincoln’s time to say whether or not he does a good impersonation of him, but from what I know he seems to have a good hold on the man. This is especially obvious when he is giving speeches, particularly the Gettysburg Address.
What didn’t work?
Silver. This is the second vampire flick I’ve seen, this week, as a matter of fact, where vampires are vulnerable to silver. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I could have sworn that silver only affected werewolves. I liked how they hearkened this back to Judas and his silver pieces, but I just think they could have gone with something else. Then again, I guess it wouldn’t have worked having a garlic axe, huh?
Pacing. The first half of the film is like a roller coaster. It starts, takes off, and has its ups and downs. The second half, though, is more inconsistent. It doesn’t really seem to be going anywhere until it finally gets there. I wish it was better planned out, but at the same time, it isn’t so horrible that you can’t get over it.
Why? There has to always be that one character who seems to be the guy that is jealous of everything. Usually, though, there is some development to these characters which allows the audience to make sense of why they do what they do. That isn’t the case here, though, as Joshua Speed randomly betrays Lincoln because he “knows it is right.” What kind of sniveling coward saying is that?!? If you’re gonna betray your old friend, then have the balls to do it!
Time waits for no one. I’ve just about had it with this bullet time stuff. It was cool when we first saw it 15 or so years ago, but now filmmakers are just using it because they can. Think back to this year’s The Three Musketeers. They really used it quite liberally, and not necessarily in a good way. Here it happens in every action scene. I don’t think there is a time where Abe is swinging his axe, except for the first few swings at the tree, that isn’t slowed down. If filmmakers are going to continue to use this technique, then they really need to learn some restraint. It almost ruined this film for me, and I’m sure that there are others who weren’t exactly a fan, either.
Tone. Maybe it was just me, but I think this one could have had a not so serious tone. I’m not saying it needed to be a comedy, as some people seem to believe it is, but maybe a joke here and there to lighten the mood. It felt as if they took this too seriously, when they could have just had more fun with the source material. There is a serious Lincoln picture coming out in the near future that is sure to be as serious as a heart attack.
Release date. Who in the world is running the studio that decided it would be a good idea to release the same weekend as a Pixar flick? Say what you want, Brave is almost assuredly going to trounce this film at the box office this weekend. I’m not going to say this shouldn’t have been released during the summer, but I wonder if it might have done better being held off a couple of months? Maybe coming out around Halloween? President’s day?
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a film that delivers on some fun, summer action. Personally, I think it was a bit too serious, but I’m sure there are those out there that think it wasn’t dark and violent enough. Keep in mind, these are probably the same people who think the game Lollipop Chainsaw should be much darker and violent. Doesn’t that make you wonder about our society? Anyway, do I recommend this? Yes. It is a very good film that is unfairly getting judged because people don’t like the title, yet if it was changed, we all know folks would bitch and moan about that, too. You just can’t win for nothing in this world. This is one film that I will be rushing to get on DVD when it comes out in the fall. It is one of the most entertaining films I’ve seen this year. Go check it out!
4 1/2 out of 5 stars