Movie Review: “Vampire Hunter”

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter movie poster

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Recently I finally watched Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I’ve never gotten very far into that book, but I had no problem with the movie because it’s good zombie fun. I don’t know how closely either the book or the movie follows the original 19th century novel but I learned a few things, like Lily James is the Megan Fox of English action movies.

Like that one, Lincoln is a good example of the genre if not the original material, in this case vampires. Instead of a literary classic, the plotlines in Lincoln are drawn from history, which could either be a help or hindrance depending on your personal point of view. Since Abraham Lincoln’s life is a pretty good story, I’m going to come down on the help side.

He was a child who grew up in rural southern Indiana, known to borrow books and practice writing in the soot of the fireplace. A master wood chopper, he moved to Springfield, Illinois to begin his law practice. Back then, you just had to “read” the law, borrowing or if you were rich buying a set of law books that you would read until you could pass an exam and set out your shingle. Lincoln was a traveling lawyer who rode around on his horse practicing law and earning a reputation as a great storyteller, until he got into politics and ended up in the White House and overseeing the US Civil War.

That’s a lot of story to work with as a screenwriter. The fictional plot of his mother dying of a vampire bite instead of being poisoned by bad milk when he was a child still gives us a self-sufficient and driven young man. Only now he’s driven by a need to kill those pesky undead more than he’s into being a lawyer. This is the best part of the film, I think, because he’s training and learning the ropes and there are creative and well shot action sequences. It’s a gorgeous movie, with a lot of great shadowing and silhouettes, especially in the blue spectrum. Art direction throughout is very good, giving the era a very pretty look. The actor playing Lincoln, Benjamin Walker, is agreeable looking and well-built enough to believably portray a kick butt, silver-tipped axe wielding hero. All the other actors are equally okay. No one gives a great showing, but the acting isn’t irritating.  I will say I like how sympathetically they portrayed Mary Todd Lincoln. She doesn’t turn into Buffy all of a sudden, but isn’t the sad person she was in real life.

But then the story runs into the problem of Lincoln aging a couple of decades before becoming president. This is where the movie runs off the rails. It’s not fun anymore, and doesn’t get action-y until the obligatory Way Over The Top climax, which is so far over the top you can’t even see the top. I’ve always hated this part of this kind of film, and it’s especially egregious here. The action cgi becomes enormously unbelievable, and the gorgeous blues and blacks are lost to a more balanced and boring palette. One of the reasons I hate this part is because the story stalls and slows in direct relation to how many loud bangs, precarious cliff hanging moments (that always stretch into a minute or more), fire and mayhem we see. There’s no way to keep telling a story if the filmmakers are deeply committed to lovingly showing excitement after excitement leading to a huge climax. Yeah, I meant that exactly how you read it.

The time jump from Springfield to DC also leads to a huge plot hole that was too much for me to bear. I won’t go into specifics, but time management seems to be a real issue with the screenwriters and I think I hurt my eyes rolling them so hard. Even so, I of course kept watching, and was rewarded with an excellent end credit sequence. The art is clever and beautifully done, and helps salve the injury of the last half hour of film.

If you like vampire movies this is not too bad. The first two thirds are pretty and action fun that follows the real Lincoln history just enough to be entertaining. The real history and fictional vampire additions work well together and the acting isn’t terrible, so if you think you can handle a huge plot hole and terrible Obligatory Action Overload, then by all means give this movie a try.

LINKS: 

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter | Official Trailer | 20th Century FOX

CFR: In Addition: The book Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was SOOO MUCH BETTER! The book was true to the history of Lincoln and America. Read it. And yes the movie is popcorn worthy too.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter book cover

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