Written by: Wayne C. Rogers
Seth Grahame-Smith, the author of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, first came to prominence with the publication of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. That novel sold over a million copies. When Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was published in 2010, Seth had already sold the movie rights to the book and had written the screenplay for the film. I think it safe to say that Seth encountered a miracle of gigantic proportions and everything fell into place as perfectly as possible. It was Seth’s time. Few authors (no matter their talent) are that lucky in the horror genre, unless their last name is King or Barker.
I remember laughing to myself when the novel of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter hit the bookshelves in 2010. I asked myself why of all the historic figures throughout history did Seth Grahame-Smith pick Abe Lincoln and make him a vampire killer. I didn’t have an answer then, but I do now after having watched the movie that’s based on the novel. I figured at the time that old Abe must be rolling over in his coffin and laughing hard at the thought of someone turning him into a killer of vampires, but not anymore.
I even laughed when I heard the movie was coming out this past summer. I didn’t, however, laugh when I saw the first trailer. Strangely, I thought to myself that this actually looks pretty good. I mean the idea of Abe Lincoln twirling an axe around in his hands like Bruce Lee with a pair of nunchucks was totally unbelievable, but it worked for me.
Yeah, me, the harshest critic of movies.
I remember telling the ladies in the office where I work that I planned on seeing the movie. They laughed so hard that I was embarrassed and decided to wait till the DVD came out so I could watch the film in the privacy of my home without anyone knowing. Can you believe this? It was like I wanted to watch a DVD filled with X-rated porn or something. The important thing, however, is that I did buy the DVD of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and I watched it with avid interest.
Was the movie as good as I hoped it would be?
Seth Grahame-Smith and the makers of the film decided to play it straight just as if everything had actually happened during Abe’s early years in Illinois. Because of that commitment on their part, the movie seemed to work perfectly for me. It was intermixed with fiction and history in such a way that you couldn’t help but wonder if it might not be true. Of course, there are no vampires. Or, are there? I once read a line, or maybe I heard it in a movie that went something like this—“The Devil’s greatest achievement was in convincing humanity that he didn’t exist.” There have been legends of vampires in various cultures for thousands of years. Most people think it started with Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but it didn’t. Maybe there’s more to the legend than meets the eye. Maybe there are creatures of the night, lurking in the dark corners of cities, or out in the forsaken wilderness.
Now, I have to tell you that there were a few scenes in the film that stretched one’s imagination (like when Abe is chasing the killer of his mother across the tops of running horses) to the breaking point, but to me this was more of a Saturday afternoon matinee movie like the ones I use to see as a young boy. Needless to say, I found myself caught up in the story of Abe Lincoln and his dark, hidden secret. I now look at Abraham Lincoln differently. When I was watching Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, I honestly couldn’t help but wonder where the damn axe was hidden. That’s how much the movie affected me. If Lincoln had taken the axe with him to Ford’s theater on that eventful night, he might have survived.
The movie, however, begins with Lincoln as a young kid who tries to protect a black boy from a harsh whipping. The black boy was attempting to prevent his parents from being sent down the river as food for vampires, though Abe didn’t know it at the time. Abe’s mother finally steps in when the slave driver turns his whip upon her own child. That night a vampire kills Abraham Lincoln’s mother, while he secretly watches from the loft. He then makes a silent vow to one day kill the creature that murdered his mother.
Once Lincoln becomes a young man, he tries to carry out his vow, but doesn’t realize what it takes to kill an actual vampire. In fact, Lincoln is almost killed himself. The only thing that saves him is another vampire who has made it his life’s ambition to destroy the creatures that murdered his wife and turned him into the living dead. Unfortunately, one vampire cannot kill another and therefore needs the assistance of a human being. Abe, however, doesn’t know his benefactor is a vampire until much later in the film. Meanwhile, Lincoln is taught the tricks of the trade for destroying these evil creatures, and he does so with relish. The future President of the United States becomes a one-man killing machine, chopping up vampires left and right, destroying hundreds of them without breaking a sweat.
It isn’t long before Lincoln comes to the attention of the head vampire (played by Rufus Sewell). From that point on a continuous battle ensues that runs into Lincoln’s later years and his term as President. It comes to Abe’s knowledge during the Civil War crisis that vampires are aiding the South in their effort to win. Lincoln quickly realizes the war will be lost to the Union if this atrocity continues. He therefore comes up with a plan that will hopefully destroy the head of the vampire clan once and for all. Lincoln knows that he only has one major fight left in him and that it will determine the victor of the War Between the States. It’s an all or nothing gamble and the vampires will do whatever is necessary to beat the President.
Of course, we know that the North won the war, but that doesn’t take away the suspense of what takes place during the last several minutes of the movie.
As I mentioned at the beginning, I didn’t expect to enjoy this film, but I did and was completely surprised at how well done the movie was. Even though I know this is a fictional account of Lincoln’s life (the vampire part), my brain has started viewing the late President in a new light. I mean who knows? Maybe…just maybe our President was a hero in another sense and fought single-handedly during the night to save our nation from being destroyed by bloodsucking creatures, as well as his battle to end slavery in the South. I can sure see old Abe swinging that axe in retribution, killing vampires as quickly as possible so the rest of us could be home, tuck safely in our beds.
The entire cast of the movie, as well as the director, along with the people in charge of set production and special effects were all excellent in every sense of the word. I had never heard of Benjamin Walker before this movie (he played Lincoln), but I’m now going to be looking for him in future films. I trust he has a successful film career ahead of him.
If you haven’t seen this movie, give it a chance. Think of it as a great Saturday matinee film and you won’t be disappointed. The movie offers the viewer loads of fun and entertainment that shouldn’t be missed.
Last, but not least, there’s a commentary of the film by the director, and a thirty-minute documentary on the making of the movie. This, of course, is the regular DVD, not the Blu-Ray.