As the first half of 2012 draws to a close, now is as fitting a time as ever to reflect back on some of the surprising images that the celluloid world has offered us thus far. We’ve witnessed pre-pubescents murderalised to the sound of thunderous applause (and healthy box office) via The Hunger Games, we’ve seen a merman devour a West Winger thanks to Cabin In The Woods and not but last week cinemagoers gazed upon the unlikely sight of R-Pattz having his sphincter inspected in the back of a stretch limo.
What we haven’t seen yet is a film in which a future President chases a vampire through a stampede of horses, nimbly leaping from equine to equine with the deftness of Roger Moore atop a series of crocodiles before said President is floored by a stallion flung by said nightwalker. That is until now. Ladies and Gentleman, may we present Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
We begin in 1865 as President Abraham Lincoln presents his story of his history, reflecting that the pages of the past are best proffered through less than accurate accounts. What follows is a tale so wonderfully preposterous and academia offending that it makes Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds look like the truly deserving winner of Best Documentary at the 2008 Academy Awards. And if QT can have Eli Roth machine gunning Adolf to an early grave why can’t Burton and Bekmambetov have the 16th President of the United States lopping of the heads of the undead with a silvery axe? Why not indeed.
If the idea offends that Abe’s primary concern when signing the emancipation proclamation was not to make men equal but to fend of a Vampiric army and that his third son succumbed not to typhoid but to a pesty fanged bitch, the issue of history rewrite shouldn’t affect the enjoyment one iota. In the same way that a tiny percent of the population where surprised to learn that the Titanic was an actual ship and not just a plot device to get Leo to cop a feel of Kate, anyone stupid enough to confuse popcorn movies with reality deserves neither your time nor your oxygen.
The issue at hand, and one that will dictate your fundamental enjoyment of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, is instead one which questions what kind of movie this is. As hard as it is to believe it isn’t a tongue-in-cheek, ironic film. For vast amounts of the running time Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter attempts to be a serious movie. Even typing that sentence seems ludicrous but once more for the people in the cheap seats, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, a film in which Abraham Lincoln hunts vampires, spends far too long believing it is something other than it clearly is.
What it should be is a joyfully macabre, delightfully bloody, big middle finger to pretension and pompousness. And occasionally, especially when ol’ mutton chops is swinging his axe, it is. But it isn’t for enough of the time. In fact, when the scenes which make the ticket purchase worthwhile (the horse stampede and the final train assault) your rightful laughter is at odds with what you’ve been shown in regards to slavery and the maudlin effect of a mother’s death on her son. The horrendous thought that your guffawing at the hilarity on show later is not what the filmmakers intended is a feeling that’s almost impossible to shake.
Even subtracting the confusion of the directors intent, the film still fails with structuring events with even the slightest bit of cohesion (witness the appalling romance, which neither performer can claim fault to) and the tired references to Mr. Lincoln’s hat, honesty and fateful trip to the theatre evoke a level of screenwriting that monkeys with typewriters would be ashamed to hand in.
One thing is for sure, you’ll never look at a 5 Dollar Bill in the same way again.
As period horror Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is mundane and nonsensical. As a SFX heavy blockbuster it’s side clutchingly awful in the best possible way. See it for two of the most memorably silly set pieces you’ll witness this or any other year.