ShOR 365: Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter

Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox

Hello, hello, readers! It’s a brand new year with loads of possibilities and goals. I know I have a few New Year’s Resolutions for this year and one of them is to watch 365 new films this year.  I am attempting to watch one new movie a day for this entire year. Though, to be honest, once school starts, I’ll be happy with half that. We’ll have to see how the school year treats me. Now, when I say “new” films, I don’t mean recently released films. Some of them will be ones that are in theatres currently but, for the most part, these will be movies that I, personally, haven’t seen before. I mostly wanted to do this challenge to expand my movie knowledge, hone my skills as a reviewer, and immerse myself in the industry that I wish to be a part of once I graduate.

I hope you follow my journey this year. I hope that these reviews will help you discover a new film to watch, or maybe you’ll revisit an old favorite. Either way, without further ado, here is my review of Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter.

Alternative history is an interesting path to take if one is going to attempt to write a novel or a film (or in this case, both). There’s a lot of preparation and research and, if you’re like Seth Grahame-Smith, a mishmash of fantasy and thriller to go along with it. This is the case with the 2012 Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov film Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. The movie is based on the Seth Grahame-Smith book of the same name published in 2010. It’s a good film and the action sequences are well choreographed but I was expecting more.

The basic premise is good. Old, honest Abe (Benjamin Walker), loses his mother to a vampire after his father loses his job. Soon afterward, Abe loses his father as well and he vows to exact revenge on the man who, basically, destroyed his family. Of course, he fails at the attempt and almost dies himself. Enter Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), a charismatic vampire hunter. Henry teaches Abe how to fight back against the undead and Abe becomes one of the best, if not the best, vampire hunter in the country. There are a few interesting twists, one of which I didn’t see coming, but the other one, I saw from a mile away.

There’s no doubt that Burton, Bekmambetov, and Grahame-Smith all take the vampire film back to its roots. These vampires are scary. They aren’t the sparkly fodder from Stephanie Meyer, thank goodness. I actually jumped the first time that the vampires transformed themselves. It was creepy and the special effects were spot on. However, a lot of critics have panned the film for its over-use of special effects. While I disagree, for the most part, there was one scene in particular that really drove me bonkers.

Henry, after training Abe, finally allows Abe to go out and kill the vampire that killed his mother. The resulting fight scene takes place in the midst of a stampede of wild horses. Abe and the vampire are literally chasing each other over the horses, using the animals as stepping stones to get across the field and fight each other. And, yes, the horses are indeed moving while this is happening. I know, I am of the understanding that this is a fantasy film but, really? Chasing each other over a moving stampede of horses? It’s basically impossible and it looked really fake which is a shame when it is compared to the other fight scenes.

As promised from the trailer, Abraham Lincoln‘s fight scenes are spectacular. They’re very well choreographed and, aside from the one on the back of the horses, they look believable. Benjamin Walker and his stunt-double really look like they know how to handle an axe as does Dominic Cooper and his guns. From start to finish, the hand-to-hand fighting looks absolutely seamless and there was one part when Abe’s transforms his axe into a shotgun that sent shivers down my spine. Mostly because I wasn’t expecting it and mostly because Walker makes me care about Abe and whether he lives or dies.

On the topic of Walker, I have to say, he could read the phone book to me and I wouldn’t be remiss. I fell in love with him in In the Heart of the Sea and he carries Abe quite well. He has the same conviction in his voice as I would imagine the real Lincoln had. Even under layers of old age makeup, Walker emotes very well. He is one of the few actors who can act with their eyes. Of course, I can sing praises about Cooper all the time. He’s a real smart ass but he plays the charisma of Sturgess well. The audience can tell that Sturgess has found a kindred spirit in Abe even if Abe pushes him away after the startling revelation midway through the film.

Another notable performance comes from Rufus Sewell. Sewell plays Adam, the 5,000-year-old vampire who takes notice of Abe’s increasing skills as a vampire hunter and in turn hunts him down over the years and into the Civil War. I wasn’t expecting Sewell and was pleasantly surprised when he showed up. However, the script didn’t give him very much to do. It’s implied that Adam is actually theAdam of Biblical times but it’s never explored in the film and I was very disappointed. I feel like I need to petition for a spin-off with his character in it. How did the Adam get turned into a vampire? How has he lived so long? There were so many questions that went unanswered in regards to his character and it was disappointing.

Another aspect of the film that I didn’t quite like was the pacing. I feel like the pacing went far too quickly near the end. I understand that the filmmakers had to cover a lot of historical events. I understand that the vampires had to fight in the Civil War in order to be eradicated to explain why current history doesn’t have vampires but, Grahame-Smith, who wrote the script and the novel, missed an opportunity for a strong look at young Lincoln as opposed to Lincoln throughout his entire life. In fact, I preferred the young Lincoln parts more than the older Lincoln parts. They made a little bit more sense than a fifty-year-old Lincoln still fighting vampires rather spryly with an axe. Just saying.

Despite all of those issues, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter is a pretty solid take on alternative history. It’s a decent action film for someone who doesn’t want to dwell on historical accuracy and just wants to see good old Abe wielding an axe against more than a cherry tree.

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