Where in the hell do I begin to discuss a film in which the main premise is that Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, spent much of his life hunting and killing vampires? Yes, I know that anything is possible on the silver screen, but “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” based upon Seth Grahame-Smith’s bestselling, 2010 novel of the same name, really requires a monumental suspension of disbelief on the part of viewers. But then what vampire story doesn’t?
Although the idea behind this film is obviously preposterous, surprisingly it does have some things to recommend it, and I’m sure that hardcore bloodsucker fans probably will enjoy it, despite the ludicrous liberties it takes with history.
Our blood fest begins in 1818, when we find young Abraham Lincoln living in Indiana with his parents, Nancy (Robin McLeavy) and Thomas (Joseph Mawle). Abe’s father works on a plantation owned by a guy named Jack Barts (Marton Csokas), but things turn sour for Thomas when Abe tries to aid a young slave, William Johnson (Anthony Mackie) who is receiving a beating from a ruthless slave owner.
Barts is so enraged by Abe’s behavior that he fires Thomas and later that night he breaks into Thomas’s house and assaults Nancy, who dies the next day. Unfortunately Abe happened to be a witness to this tragedy, and at first he thinks Barts poisoned Nancy and carries grudge with him for nine years before deciding to avenge his mother’s death.
When he encounters Barts at a dock, he attacks him, but Barts naturally turns out to be a vampire, and he is about deprive John Wilkes Booth of his place in history before one Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper) comes to Abe’s rescue. And Sturgess is an important player in our sanguinary tale because it is he who educates Abe about the existence of vampires and offers to teach him how to hunt them down and kill them. By the way, Abe’s weapon of choice is a huge silver-bladed axe that he learns to twirl like a lethal baton.
Thus, just as Daniel Larusso had his Mr. Miyagi and Beatrix Kiddo had her Pai Mei, so now does Abe have Sturgess, who tells him that a fellow named Adam (Rufus Sewall) is the major progenitor of American vampires. Adam, along with his sister, Vadoma (Erin Wasson), lives on his plantation in New Orleans.
After 10 years of training under Sturgess, Abe finally sets out for Springfield, Ill., where he meets and falls in love with Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Sturgess has warned Abe not become romantically involved with anyone, but Abe just can’t resist Mary’s charms and takes her for his wife.
Now if you want to find out whether or not Abe exacts revenge on Barts and how the vampire population figures into the Civil War, you will have to watch the film because you won’t get these answers from me. I will tell you, however, that everything is tied up in a neat little package just in time for Abe and Mary to set out for a production of “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theater on Good Friday, April 14, 1865.
As I mentioned earlier, fans of the vampire genre should find that this film offers satisfactory entertainment because it contains plenty of blood-gushing slicing and dicing, and what I liked most about it was seeing the sets, costumes, and props that depicted the 1800s.
The film also boasts two particularly effective action sequences. One of these occurs when Abe is chasing a vampire through a herd of horses, and the other is a tremendous fight with vampires on a speeding train. In both these segments the cinematography and special effects are exceptional.
Both Walker and Winstead turned in credible performances as Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln, and in the film’s production notes Winstead offered some insight into the development of the relationship between Abe and Mary.
“The beginning of Abraham and Mary’s relationship is like a romantic comedy. They’re young and there’s a real connection between them. She’s attracted to his intelligence, integrity and humor.”
Of course their relationship is a bit complicated by Abe’s obsession with killing vampires, and in the production notes Walker offered an analysis of the possible problems the couple faces.
“Mary and Abraham’s relationship complicates his journey because he has to decide what’s more important – his marriage or his vow to slay the undead. As we all know, Abraham is an honest man, so he must ask himself, at what point can he be completely honest with Mary?
“It’s interesting because that’s something all couples deal with, in the 19th century as well as today. How do you reconcile a relationship with your life’s passion? Mary is not involved in this part of his life, which causes tension. She knows Abraham is hiding something from her, but she cannot ask what it is.”
Although I would never want to watch this film again, I must say that it should give lovers of the undead enough of a bloody fix to carry them until the next “Twilight” chapter. I just found the entire idea just a bit too far out for my taste. Therefore, let’s give “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” a generous six.
All I hope is that this movie doesn’t pave the way for such upcoming historical masterpieces as “Geroge W. Bush: Werewolf Slayer,” or “Bill Clinton Versus Interns From Outer Space,” or “Barack Obama and the Attack of Osama Bin Alien.” Sounds like great stuff, doesn’t it?