Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Is Actually Fun

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit that I didn’t want to see Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.  It wasn’t because of the concept at all, though Lincoln fighting vampires doesn’t really register as something that excites me.  I get its appeal for others but the jokey nature of the concept seems more banal than funny to me.  In addition, the appeal of the film was lessened by two names in Hollywood that do absolutely nothing for me, Timur Bekmambetov and Tim Burton.  Timur made the visually interesting but wholly unsatisfying films Nightwatch and Daywatch, and I found Wanted to be unlikeable.  Tim Burton has just never been a filmmaker I’ve ever been able to get into, and believe me, in all fairness, I’ve tried to many times.  Throw in some very terrible marketing materials and there isn’t anything that makes me think I needed to see the film.  Then I started seeing the reactions from people, some of whom I consider to be pretty fair in their opinions, and they were enjoying it.  My curiosity surrounding the reactions got the better of me and I plopped myself down into a theater seat to see how I’d react to the film.  I’m a bit shocked to say, I actually enjoyed Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, a lot more than I imagined.

What makes Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter work is the fact that everything is taken seriously.  There’s no jokey playing at the concept, it’s a man who seeks revenge on the creatures that caused him pain and his desire to find a way to fight them in more ways than one.  On top of that, it is revisionist fiction, an aspect that I found, much to my surprise, to be something I really enjoyed about the film.  I like the fact that one of America’s great presidents and pivotal eras was brought on by a vampire/human war; that all started with Abe seeking revenge for his murdered mother.  It’s a pretty fun and interesting spin on historical events.  It’s not a story of great depth mind you, but rather, it skims over the history stuff just enough to allow you to see how it all fits in.  The characters aren’t necessarily the most well developed but, through the performances, you do end up liking and caring for quite a few characters and their outcome.  It also helps that the film starts out with Abe at a young age and then progresses into the Abraham Lincoln that we all recognize.  It allows the premise to sink in more with less of the jokey appeal influencing it.

I feel like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is Timur Bekmambetov showing some restraint.  He allows the story to unfold without too many of his style-over-substance tendencies interrupting the proceedings.  He does unleash his outlandish side during the action scenes for better or worse.  There are two major action scenes that suffer from being terribly unrealistic albeit still entertaining.  There is a fight between a vampire and Abe amidst a stampede of horses that is, admittedly, fun to watch.  The CG in it is pretty terrible with bodies that appear far too elastic and seemingly cartoonish.  The finale set on a moving train is another spot where the visual effects fail to live up to today’s standards but still makes for an enjoyable set piece.  The fact that I bought into the movie and liked the characters who were fighting meant I was able to forgive some of the effects and still be able to feel a sense of danger for everyone despite the unrealistic nature of it all.  I think it also helps that most of the movie feels a bit like a dream.  The cinematography gives it an ethereal feel to it and allows for it to be taken more as fantasy than anything realistic.  The vampire effects are all CG and are passable because they still come off as threatening creatures.  It’s not my favorite vampire design but I liked it more than the vampires in I Am Legend or the Fright Night remake.

The cast is all pretty strong.  Benjamin Walker as Abe Lincoln works rather well.  He holds a great amount of intensity and believability.  He comes across as one part Liam Neeson, one part Jason Dohring (Veronica Mars).  I would say moreso the latter as there were many times where I saw him up on screen and thought I was looking right at Jason Dohring.  Dominic Cooper and Anthony Mackie are both likable.  Mary Elizabeth Winstead was probably my second favorite performance in the film.  She had one brief dramatic scene that got to me a little bit and gets one of the more satisfying vampire kills in the movie.  I was pleasantly surprised to see Alan Tudyk (Firefly) and Jimmi Simpson (It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia) show up in the film.  Simpson in particular was surprising as he actually played a pretty likable character, which is contrary to his uber-creepy character on It’s Always Sunny.  Rufus Sewell was fine as the villain, not really having a standout performance, but one that was in service of the story.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter definitely surprised me.  I never thought that by the end of the film, when Abe is the older, bearded version of himself wielding his axe alongside his friend as they fight off a horde of vampires, the word “badass” would enter my mind.  It did however and I have to admit that Timur Bekmambetov and writer Seth Grahame-Smith created something that is definitely entertaining.  I ended up opting to see it in 2D since it wasn’t shot natively in 3D so I cannot comment on whether you should see it in 3D or not.  One thing I didn’t expect after seeing the film was that I’d be willing to recommend it.  It’s a fun summer movie and one that I would have no problem watching again.  So yea, this highly reluctant guy (at first) says go check it out.


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8 Comments on “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Is Actually Fun”

  1. Nikolas Dane June 29, 2012 at 12:40 am #

    I am kind of skeptical watching this movie, sounds fun and entertaining but, to be honest I haven’t seen many great movies lately. What actually does attracts to me, is that Timur Bekmambetov is part of the production, I did love night watch and day watch was good to, maybe not as great, but was completely surprised by the production that those movies had and was never expecting something like that to come out of Russia. Glad i wasn’t made by Hollywood.

    I trust your judgment usually we have the same taste so I will have to watch this… It might be Prometheus though.

  2. Ben McBride June 27, 2012 at 6:09 pm #

    Thanks, glad to hear you had fun with the movie.

  3. CMrok93 June 27, 2012 at 5:51 pm #

    This one could have definitely been a lot more ridiculous and insane, like the premise seemed like it promised, but I still had fun with it. Surprised this actually did well at all at the box office. Totally thought that people weren’t all that interested in the idea of Honest Abe, hacking up vamps. Good review Ben.

  4. Guilherme Awesome Dude June 25, 2012 at 9:42 pm #

    Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter? I knew my history teacher was full of shit

  5. Ben McBride June 25, 2012 at 6:51 pm #

    Understandable, I’d probably get it on blu.

  6. Nolan McBride (@nolan_mcbride) June 25, 2012 at 5:04 pm #

    This almost makes me want to give it a shot…almost. It’s gonna be a wait ’til Blu-ray deal for me probably.


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