Year of Release: 2012 Directed by Timur Bekmambetov. Starring Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Jimmi Simpson, Anthony Mackie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell, and Marton Csokas.
The enslavement of the Hebrews by the Egyptians; the massacre of Christians in the ancient Roman games, Africans selling their own countrymen to Europeans, and finally slavery in the United States. All of these events were propagated by vampires. Just as vampires are enslaved to their nature, humans’ instincts to be greedy, arrogant, and oppressive have led them to enslave and kill one another. Whenever such an event happens, the vampires seize their opportunity and encourage the killing and enslavement so they can feed on the victims. So Adam, (Rufus Sewell) the leader of the vampires, explains to Abraham Lincoln. (Benjamin Walker)
Yes, Abraham Lincoln the sixteenth president of the United States of America, leader of the country during the Civil War, which was an effort to destroy the vampires in the US and the evil they wrought. All of Lincoln’s greatest and most famous accomplishments take backseat to his true vocation: a vampire hunter who destroys legions of the undead at night with a silver axe. And many of his best known achievements were driven by his desire to destroy evil by harming vampires in as many ways as possible.
If you maintained a straight face while reading through all of the above, I am impressed. I struggle to tell someone else the title of this film with a straight face. The film itself treats the premise quite seriously, and it is this seriousness and enthusiasm for the subject material that makes the film a mostly enjoyable and diverting experience. It delivers almost everything that one would expect and a few pleasant surprises in addition.
The fights against the bloodsuckers are staged as expected. Extravagant axe-swinging, leaping through the air, and chopping up the vampires as their blatantly fake blood splatters across the screen in slow motion is goofily appealing. There are a couple of genuine scares when a vampire suddenly appears that one did not expect. And there are a couple mildly surprising twists involving Lincoln’s mentor Henry (Dominic Cooper) and his boss Joshua. (Jimmi Simpson)
Nearly all of the major events in Lincoln’s life are given an alternate explanation. The Battle of Gettysburg, the Emancipation Proclamation, famous deaths, and Lincoln’s decision to go to Illinois are all due to his vampire hunt. It was a little disappointing that one of the most pivotal events of Lincoln’s life, while humorously foreshadowed, was not tied into his career as a vampire slayer.
There are also good parallels between the action of characters. Late in the film, both Abe’s and Mary’s (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) actions mirror each other in a significant sequence. Earlier lines and themes return in predictable yet amusing places.
The overt Christian elements in the film were a pleasant surprise. The movie opens with a quote from Genesis, praising the name of Abraham. Vampires are an embodiment of unadulterated evil, and this evil enslaves them to their passions and leads them to destroy others. The chief vampire is named Adam. He passes on the vampire curse to other humans the same way that Adam passed on original sin to the human race. Silver is the only weapon that can destroy a vampire, because silver became cursed when Judas received thirty pieces of silver, or blood money, for betraying Jesus. Lincoln’s strength and prowess as a vampire do not come from hatred but from truth and a thirst for justice.
When I first heard of this film, I rolled my eyes and placed it on my “films to skip” list. A couple positive reviews from sources I trust convinced me to watch it, and I am glad. While undeniably flawed, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter has enough cheesiness and enthusiasm for its subject to be a diverting, mildly entertaining, summer sleeper in a “so bad it’s good” way.
Content Advisory: Much stylized gore and violence, a fleeting sexual scenario, and brief partial nudity. MPAA rating: R
Suggested Audience: Teens and up with discernment
Personal Recommendation: B-