When Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter came out in cinemas I was super excited to see it because, you know, Abraham Lincoln and vampire hunting. Of course, I couldn’t find anyone who shared my interest in it so I never got to see it in the cinema. After all, it’s not the kind of film you should really see alone. I think it would have said a bit too much about me as a person. Then, as time went by, I forgot about this film and never saw it at all. And, to be quite honest, the dismal Pride and Prejudice and zombies hadn’t really convinced me that mixing fantasy with period drama was a very good idea. Normally, I love a bit of altered history but does it need vampires? Especially at a time when vampires had been ruined thanks to the god-awful Twilight films. Added to that, I’ve never been convinced that Dominic Cooper was a necessary addition to any cast list. No matter how many times my friend tries to convince me that he’s fantastic. He just seems a bit smug and gets a lot of freedom down to his looks. He’s like a male Keira Knightley… but nowhere near as good looking or posh. Still, In need of an Abraham Lincoln film to accompany Tuesday’s Lincoln in the Bardo review, I decided it was time to watch it. After all, I felt like Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln from the same year would be a bit heavier than I was really ready for in the middle of my week off. Maybe it would have been appropriate coming after the announcement that the actor is set to retire from acting? Of course, I hadn’t thought of that until this moment… so, the crazy vampire story it is.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is exactly the kind of film that I hoped it would be. It does exactly what it says on the tin and shows us what history would have been like if Honest Abe had dedicated his pre-politics life to hunting vampires. In this version of events, a young Abraham saves his friend, William Johnson (Anthony Mackie), from being beaten by a vicious slaver. The incident winds up with Abraham’s father losing his job and being forced to repay a debt he couldn’t pay. To settle the debt, the slaver (Marton Csokas), who also happens to be a vampire, kills Abe’s mother, an incident which is witnessed by the boy himself. Years later, adult Abraham (Benjamin Walker) vows revenge against the murderer but, obviously, finds the task difficult when he finds out the man is already dead.
Thankfully, the young man is approached by the mysterious Henry Sturges (Dominic Cooper) who offers to train Abraham to fight vampires if he promises to give up his future and follow Struges’ instructions to the letter. Desperate for revenge, Abe says yes but finds the years of fighting random vampires, with his trusty silver plated axe, unfulfilling. Eventually he meets and falls in love with Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and becomes a politician. Although, just because Lincoln hangs up his axe doesn’t mean the vampires are done with him. Apparently, vampires have a vested interest in slavery because slaves make the tastiest meals. With unkillable monsters fighting with the South, Lincoln must find a way to rid the world of these beasts whilst also freeing their dinner.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was more enjoyable than I’d given it credit for but it should not be mistaken for a decent film. If all you are after is a mindless, action heavy film that tries to teach you about history then it’s perfect. There are plenty of gruesome moments, slow-motion fighting, explosions, and really terrible CGI to keep you mildly entertained. It’s an incredibly silly film that manages to stay on track by pretending it’s more serious than it is. Anyone who sees this film and complains that it’s ludicrous is even more insane than the film. This is Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and it’s not ashamed of that. There is a dichotomy within the title itself that is played up within the narrative. It attempts to mix vampires with history and politics and, if I’m honest, it barely manages to do any of them.
The fact that Vampire Hunter takes itself so seriously means it elevates itself slightly. It doesn’t try and purposefully play everything for laughs, which would only have ended being hugely cringe-inducing. Instead it is a silly film that never overplays it’s silliness. It knows it’s a shit film but it won’t let that stop it trying to be a great film. All of the actors do tremendous jobs at keeping things straight and letting the natural comedy fly. It’s not the kind of thing that everyone will love and it does get tiresome as we get further into Lincoln’s politics. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this film. It won’t tell you anything about Lincoln, the Civil War, or how to make a film about them but it delivers on the title. Lincoln was a grave man so it seems only fair that this film treated him with that same solemnity. It’s crazy but, if you have a weird love of bad films, you’ll find yourself getting hooked. If it had perhaps been a tad shorter then it would have been ideal.