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Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)

aka Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

"Are you a patriot or a vampire?"

Directed By: 
Details: 94 mins · English · R (USA)

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Spits Upon History and Legend Alike

I picked this up from the library hesitantly; even if free, I wasn't sure if I wanted to spend the time on a film with such little promise as this. Sadly, this is on the same level as Van Helsing, favoring overly dramatic and illogical battles over any form of originality, the biggest difference being that the movie is somewhat bound to following Lincoln's life rather than coming with a more hodge-podge of a narrative.
Based on a book, which comes from a series of novels that takes literary classics and include zombies, werewolves. and the like to them, the film briefly introduces us to the Lincoln we know before rewinding to the dawn of his youth. After his father pisses off his ex-employer, who happens to be a vampire, Lincoln witnesses him bite his mother, who dies the morning after. This, obviously, results in him searching for revenge. But, before we get into that, let's take a moment to point out just how flawed and absurd this whole situation is. Firstly, Abe sees the vampire come into the house and approach her sleeping mother, but does nothing to stop him, even when he hears her mother screaming in the bed below her. Secondly, the mother is sleeping in her bed by herself with her son sleeping above her; even if she is in a marriage where the couple sleep in separate beds, why does the father not sleep in a neighboring bed? It doesn't make any sense that he would be sleeping in a separate room. Thirdly, when the doctor determines that the mother is going to pass away from some clearly foreign and mystic cause, why does the husband leave the room, resulting in only Abe being there for her death? And, lastly, if biting the mother without killing her causes her to die, how do this vampires make more vampires? The movie is rife with them, yet there's only once do we see a vampire try to turn another, and the vampires do nothing different to him than they do to everyone else to make him turn.
But, honestly, this film isn't one for explanations, and when they do give a few, they make absolutely no sense. After this event, we fast forward nine years to when Abe is a young man seeking revenge on the man who killed his mother, somehow not realizing that he is a vampire. But, beforehand, he becomes incredibly drunk, meeting a man in a local bar. Upon attacking the villain and realizing that he is a vampire, the man suddenly appears, having superhuman strength and saving Abe. The film tries, soon after, to explain how the guy knew that Abe would be attacking a vampire that night, let alone that specific vampire, but the film kind of boils it down to because he saw a part of him in Abe or something like that. He is then very reluctant to train Abe in killing vampires, as he sees anger in his heart, but Lincoln somehow convinces him otherwise, although he seems to give in pretty easily.
Now, during this montage of training techniques, some of the worst logic and ideas are presented to us as to why this all works. Firstly, the reason silver is so deadly to vampires is because - get this - Judas was cursed after selling out Jesus with 30 pieces of silver, so all cursed beings are hurt by it. ...Really? Connecting Judas to vampirism with such roundabout thinking doesn't work for me. Also, the reason why the man from the bar has such superhuman strength is because he's part vampire, right? NO, it's because (I can't believe I saying this) truth brings out strength in people. Apparently, that strength equates to throwing people so hard that they fly straight up into the sky through the front of a building or chopping down a tree in a single swing. Why don't we all have these powers? I guess we're all awful, terrible, liars, whereas Lincoln seems to be a saint. Oh, and did I mention that his choice of weapon is an ax with a silver finish? Look, just because there's a folk tale about him chopping down a cherry tree doesn't mean this needs to be his weapon of choice.
Once we get past all of that ridiculousness, we see Abe is sent off to a local town to hunt down the various targets sent to him via postage by his trainer. How he discovers that these people are vampires is, again, very unclear, but it gives us an excuse to see a lot of fights, most of which equate to the over-the-top nature of Van Helsing and the briefness of the fights in Ghost Rider. We also follow Lincoln as he falls in love with his future wife and fights against slavery, as he recites a few of his famous speeches. The fight for slavery is given some context through his black friend who was born free but is nonetheless throughout the movie, though it's sporadically touched on. The romance, on the other hand, is pretty rushed, and comes in and out of focus in favor of the vampires.
There's also a pretty stupid reveal later in the film that

the trainer is actually part vampire

, but there's a really poor explanation as to why he doesn't do anything with said abilities, and, when the plot calls for it, this plot point is completely contradicted. And, on top of that, despite knowing that Abe is hunting him actively, the man who killed Abe's mother never tries to off him, which makes no sense, seeing as how Abe tried to kill him.
Mid-way through the movie, the plot could have easily ended, only for it to keep trekking on, come up with more reasons for the story to continue. And, while these are wholly plausible, they don't feel entirely necessary or warranted. We also see a huge time lapse as well, as Abe suddenly grows older; it's like watching a completely different movie in some ways, as there's a sudden lack of fighting in favor of as many historical references as possible, the battle with vampires being embodied in the war with the South in a pretty ridiculous manner.
If there's one good thing I can say about this movie, it's that the special effects are fantastic, and always look great, adding an aesthetically pleasing element to every fight. There's also the great idea that slavery is more or less used as a means of feeding the vampire plantation owners and the like. But, one clever idea doesn't make up for the overall lack of originality the movie, beyond the occasional fight. A few of the actors stand out among the crowd, including a brief appearance by Alan Tudyk, who's exclusively done voice work since Firefly, but, for the most part, none of the performances are special. as whole, this film favors style over substance, and quickly deteriorates into a bit of a mess. Still, the fights are fun, and it can be moderately enjoyable if you don't get your hopes up or lose interest, which can be hard at times.

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Great idea, but totally wrong tone.

The concept behind Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter sounds just crazy enough to work as a film adaptation. An axe-wielding Abe chopping up vampires seems like the perfect recipe for a lighthearted genre-mashing adventure. Instead of taking a humorous approach to this material though, Smith and director Timur Bekmambetov take the ridiculous premise too seriously, which causes the picture to fall flat.

According to the film’s mythology, Abraham Lincoln’s mother is killed by an abusive businessman named Jack Barton when he’s a boy. Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) grows up vowing revenge against Barton, not realizing that the man is actually a vampire. As a result, his initial attempt to kill Barton is a failure, but luckily he is saved by Henry Sturges (Dominic Cooper). Sturges patches Lincoln up and trains him how to hunt vampires, so that he can beat Barton next time. In exchange, Lincoln agrees to help Sturges rid the United States of other bad bloodsucke...(more)

The concept behind Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter sounds just crazy enough to work as a film adaptation. An axe-wielding Abe chopping up vampires seems like the perfect recipe for a lighthearted genre-mashing adventure. Instead of taking a humorous approach to this material though, Smith and director Timur Bekmambetov take the ridiculous premise too seriously, which causes the picture to fall flat.

According to the film’s mythology, Abraham Lincoln’s mother is killed by an abusive businessman named Jack Barton when he’s a boy. Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) grows up vowing revenge against Barton, not realizing that the man is actually a vampire. As a result, his initial attempt to kill Barton is a failure, but luckily he is saved by Henry Sturges (Dominic Cooper). Sturges patches Lincoln up and trains him how to hunt vampires, so that he can beat Barton next time. In exchange, Lincoln agrees to help Sturges rid the United States of other bad bloodsuckers.

The idea of turning Abraham Lincoln into an action hero is smart given his real-life heroic reputation as President of the United States. It’s sly and entertaining how Smith paints Lincoln’s vampire hunting career a secret chapter in the politician’s life, recounted only through entries in a private diary. Smith also wisely uses Lincoln’s large stature to lend believability to the intense feats of physical strength that the character carries out in the film. However Smith’s inclusion of narration by Lincoln while he’s “writing” in his diary is corny, especially when he says words like “History remembers the battles, but forgets the blood.”

As an action movie, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is decent. Training montages where Lincoln learns how to twirl his axe are enjoyable even though they’re reminiscent of Highlander and his throwdowns with baddies are fun for their franticness. For the most part, Bekmambetov’s hyper-realistic aesthetic of bold orange sunsets, intense blue fog, and dark grey smoke gel because they provide a solid horror vibe during these sequences. But the movie’s big set pieces feel really fake with their bad CG and its slow-mo takes you out of these scenes by lingering too long on environmental destruction.

Despite Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’s solid premise and action, the film fails big time with its uneven story and uptight characters. The parts of Lincoln’s life that the movie focuses on don’t feel strung together cohesively, particularly as tale jumps from his younger years in Illinois to his days in the Oval Office. As a result, the picture never quite establishes a rhythm. Additionally, Smith’s dialogue is so stiff that it’s hard to like hanging out with any of the characters, including Lincoln itself. Not even talented supporting players like Anthony Mackie, Alan Tudyk, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead can act their way out of this stuffy problem.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is one of those great ideas that would have turned into a great film if the tone had been handled correctly. If the characters and story were more in the vein of modern superhero adaptations with humor and occasional winking at the audience, it could have been a much stronger movie because its mood would match the absurdity of its concept. (less)

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Terrible, Unwatchable

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Cast:

Small Mary Todd Lincoln
Small Henry Sturgess
Small Adam
Small Stephen A. Douglas
Small William Johnson
Small Abraham Lincoln
No_movie_poster Joshua Speed
No_movie_poster Harriet Tubman
No_movie_poster Nancy Hanks Lincoln
Small Vadoma Maid
No_movie_poster Jefferson Davis
No_movie_poster Gabrielle
No_movie_poster Henry's Wife
No_movie_poster Vampire soldier
No_movie_poster Willie Lincoln
No_movie_poster Senator Jeb Nolan
No_movie_poster Rev. Charles Dresser
No_movie_poster Nancy Lincoln's Doctor
No_movie_poster Edward's Dancer #16
No_movie_poster Congress Man
No_movie_poster Dancer
Small Jack Barts
Small Thomas Lincoln
No_movie_poster Pharmacist
No_movie_poster Bull Run Private
No_movie_poster Captain Slash
No_movie_poster Angry Resident
Small Scroll Official
No_movie_poster Guest #1
Small Nancy Hanks Lincoln
Small Silver Soldier #4
Small Midwife
No_movie_poster Texting Man
No_movie_poster Upperclass Pedestrian
No_movie_poster Us Army Major General
No_movie_poster Dancer
Small Doctor
No_movie_poster Harriet Tubman
No_movie_poster Vampire Horseman
Small Stephen A. Douglas

Crew:

Small Tim Burton Producer
No_movie_poster William Hoy Editor
No_movie_poster Cheryl Carasik Set Decoration
No_movie_poster Mindy Marin Casting
No_movie_poster Beat Frutiger Art Direction
No_movie_poster Caleb Deschanel Director of Photography
No_movie_poster Simon Kinberg Screenplay
No_movie_poster Jim Lemley Producer
Small Timur Bekmambetov Director
No_movie_poster John J. Kelly Executive Producer
No_movie_poster Varvara Avdyushko Costume Design
No_movie_poster Carlo Poggioli Costume Design
No_movie_poster François Audouy Production Design
No_movie_poster Henry Jackman Music
No_movie_poster Seth Grahame-Smith Screenplay
Small Timur Bekmambetov Production
No_movie_poster Seth Grahame-Smith Story Contributor

Taglines:

"Are you a patriot or a vampire?"

Plot:

In 1818, Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) 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 (Anthony Mackie), and intervenes when he sees Johnson being beaten by a slaver. Because of his son's actions, Thomas is fired. That night, Lincoln sees Barts break into his house and attack his mother. Nancy falls ill the following day, and dies shortly afterwards. Thomas tells Lincoln that Barts poisoned her.


Nine years later, a vengeful Lincoln attacks Barts at the docks, but Barts, who is actually a vampire, overpowers him. However, before Barts can kill him, Lincoln is rescued by Henry Sturges (Dominic Cooper). Sturges explains that vampires exist, and offers to teach Lincoln to be a vampire hunter. Lincoln accepts and, after a decade of training, travels to Springfield, Illinois. During his training, Sturges tells Lincoln that the vampires in America descend from Adam (Rufus Sewell), a vampire who owns a plantation in New Orleans with his sister, Vadoma (Erin Wasson). Sturges also tells Lincoln of the vampires' weakness, silver, and presents him with a silver pocket watch.


In Springfield, Lincoln befriends shopkeeper Joshua Speed (Jimmi Simpson), and meets Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Though Sturges warned him not to form any close relationships, Lincoln develops romantic feelings for Mary.


Lincoln successfully finds and defeats Barts. Before dying, Barts reveals that Sturges is also a vampire. Lincoln confronts Sturges, who reveals that, centuries ago, he was attacked and bitten by Adam. Because Sturges' soul was impure, he became a vampire, and that prevented him from harming Adam or any other vampire (since "Only the living can kill the dead"). Sturges has since been training vampire hunters, hoping to destroy Adam.


Disappointed, Lincoln decides to abandon his mission. However, Adam learns of his activities and kidnaps Johnson to lure Lincoln into a trap at his plantation. Adam captures Lincoln and tries to recruit him, revealing his plans to turn the United States into a nation of the undead. Speed rescues his friends, and they escape to Ohio.


Lincoln marries Mary and begins his political career, campaigning to abolish slavery. Sturges warns Lincoln that the slave trade keeps vampires under control, as vampires use slaves for food, and if Lincoln interferes, the vampires will retaliate. After Lincoln's election as President of the United States of America, he moves to the White House with Mary, where they have a son, William Wallace Lincoln (Cameron M. Brown). William is later bitten by Vadoma and dies.


Confederate President Jefferson Davis (John Rothman) convinces Adam to deploy his vampires on the front lines. Lincoln orders the confiscation of all the silverware in the area and has it melted to produce silver weapons. Speed, believing that Lincoln is tearing the nation apart, defects and informs Adam that Lincoln will transport the silver by train.


On the train, Adam and Vadoma, who have set fire to the upcoming trestle, attack Lincoln, Sturges, and Johnson. During the fight Adam learns that the train holds only rocks. Speed reveals that his betrayal was a ruse to lure Adam into a trap, and Adam kills Speed for this. Lincoln uses his watch to stab Adam, killing him, and the three escape the train before it explodes. Meanwhile, Mary and the ex-slaves have transported the silver to Gettysburg through the Underground Railroad.


The now leaderless Confederate vampires stage a final, massive assault and are met head on by the Union. Armed with their silver weapons, the Union soldiers destroy the vampires and eventually win the war.


Nearly two years later, on April 14, 1865, Sturges tells Lincoln that the remaining vampires have fled the country. Sturges tries to convince Lincoln to allow him to turn Lincoln into a vampire, so that he can become immortal and continue to fight vampires, but Lincoln declines before going to the theater with his wife on that fateful night.


In modern times, Sturges approaches a man at a bar in Washington, D.C., as he hopes that man will become the next vampire hunter.

Release Dates:

Theatrical : 2012-08-03 : Vietnam

Theatrical : 2012-08-08 : France

Theatrical : 2012-08-09 : Argentina

Theatrical : 2012-08-09 : Hungary

Theatrical : 2012-08-10 : Uruguay

Theatrical : 2012-08-17 : El Salvador

Theatrical : 2012-08-17 : Turkey

Theatrical : 2012-08-23 : Peru

Theatrical : 2012-08-24 : Estonia

Theatrical : 2012-08-24 : Poland

Theatrical : 2012-08-24 : Venezuela

Theatrical : 2012-08-31 : Colombia

Theatrical : 2012-08-31 : Guatemala

Theatrical : 2012-08-31 : Honduras

Theatrical : 2012-08-31 : Mexico

Theatrical : 2012-08-31 : Panama

Theatrical : 2012-08-31 : Spain

Theatrical : 2012-09-07 : Brazil

Theatrical : 2012-10-03 : Germany

Theatrical : 2012-11-01 : Japan

Theatrical : 2012-06-22 : United States of America

Theatrical : 2012-06-18 : United States of America

Theatrical : 2012-06-20 : Ireland

Theatrical : 2012-06-20 : United Kingdom

Theatrical : 2012-06-21 : Bahrain

Theatrical : 2012-06-21 : Kuwait

Theatrical : 2012-06-21 : Portugal

Theatrical : 2012-06-21 : Russia

Theatrical : 2012-06-22 : Armenia

Theatrical : 2012-06-22 : Canada

Theatrical : 2012-06-22 : Pakistan

Theatrical : 2012-06-22 : Romania

Theatrical : 2012-06-28 : Azerbaijan

Theatrical : 2012-06-28 : Belarus

Theatrical : 2012-06-28 : Kazakhstan

Theatrical : 2012-06-28 : Cambodia

Theatrical : 2012-06-28 : Ukraine

Theatrical : 2012-07-03 : Taiwan

Theatrical : 2012-07-04 : Norway

Theatrical : 2012-07-04 : Philippines

Theatrical : 2012-07-05 : Hong Kong

Theatrical : 2012-07-05 : Singapore

Theatrical : 2012-07-05 : Thailand

Theatrical : 2012-07-11 : Belgium

Theatrical : 2012-07-12 : Bolivia

Theatrical : 2012-07-12 : Dominican Republic

Theatrical : 2012-07-12 : Israel

Theatrical : 2012-07-13 : Costa Rica

Theatrical : 2012-07-13 : Ecuador

Theatrical : 2012-07-13 : India

Theatrical : 2012-07-13 : Nicaragua

Theatrical : 2012-07-13 : Sweden

Theatrical : 2012-07-18 : Iceland

Theatrical : 2012-07-19 : Chile

Theatrical : 2012-07-19 : Czech Republic

Theatrical : 2012-07-19 : Slovenia

Theatrical : 2012-07-20 : Italy

Theatrical : 2012-08-02 : Australia

Theatrical : 2012-08-02 : Denmark

Theatrical : 2012-08-02 : Netherlands

Theatrical : 2012-08-02 : New Zealand

Theatrical : 2012-08-02 : Serbia

Theatrical : 2012-08-03 : Bulgaria

Theatrical : 2012-08-03 : Finland

Theatrical : 2012-08-03 : Lithuania

DVD : 2012-10-23 : United States of America