Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
I suppose it was bound to happen. The vampire movies have become so ubiquitous
that there are no longer any unused vehicles for them to appear in a movie,
except……accompanied by a famous historical figure who then becomes an
Sure, it’s patently ridiculous. OK, that being said, once you can suspend
all disbelief and swallow the premise, the movie itself isn’t that bad.
Benjamin Walker, as Abraham Lincoln, graduated from Juilliard, and has already
played Andrew Jackson in a rock musical. He lends such surprising gravitas to
this role that we really want for him to be Honest Abe. When he steps up on
the stump and makes the rousing speeches and the people cheer, there’s just
something thrilling about envisioning the real Abraham Lincoln, out there
campaigning somewhere in Illinois, with the country about to be swirled up in
the political events that would culminate in the Civil War, which thrust upon
the tall, gaunt, raw-boned lawyer a greatness he might not otherwise have
achieved. But he held us together, as a country, in our most precarious hour,
and he did so with class and grace and courage----no wonder we just want to
idolize him. He’s a genuine political hero.
But to make an action hero out of him, as well? Admittedly, Benjamin Walker
looks convincing, swinging that silver-tipped axe with such ferocity. And they
give young Abe motive, saying that his Mom was killed by a vampire when he was
a kid, so he begins his career as a vampire hunter, under the apprenticeship
of someone who was not exactly who he represented himself to be.
But then Socially-Awkward Abe meets pretty Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead),
whose charm and wit and grace help to change his life. Now, instead of living
for revenge, he lives for love. And after he meets up with an old boyhood
friend, Will Johnson (Anthony Mackie), who just happens to be black, and
experiences some of the horrible racism that era had to offer, Stalwart Abe is
incensed. Now he has a cause. And here, Eloquent Abe rides that righteous
indignation right into the White House.
It wasn’t that simple, of course, even in the politics of the time. But
wait, we aren’t through oversimplifying yet. It seems the vampires, loving
chaos and disorder, and prone to evil, have sided with the Secessionists, a
good explanation for why the Rebel soldiers seemed, at first, to be superior
(what general wouldn’t have wanted invincible troops?). So, at the
culmination of Gettysburg, our taciturn President has to get out the old
battle-axe, literally from mothballs, and personally accompany a trainload of
precious silver to the battlefield, so the Yankee soldiers can use them as
bayonets, and finally stop the death-defying Confederates.
The re-enactment of Pickett’s Charge is much more convincing here than in
that bloated, self-conscious, ponderous 1993 movie called “Gettysburg,”
which relied way too heavily on old and fat amateurs who wanted to play
re-enactors. The “real” Civil War soldiers were much younger, much
skinnier, more ragged, and less disposed to kerfuffle. You’d almost like to
see these vampire-obsessed moviemakers try doing the “real” Civil War,
instead of playing with this shopworn horror theme, which quickly get tiresome
and repetitive. After a while, knocking them down “en masse” just starts
to look like a cheesy video game. And after all that unreal ghoulish
bloodletting, we suddenly have a somber, serious, almost-inspiring rendition
of the beginning of “The Gettysburg Address,” and once again we wish
they’d quit playing at this historicity and try doing it seriously.
Until then, it’s take it or leave it for this weird mishmash mash-up of
slasher film and historical fiction, steeped in pop culture hysteria.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving,