(To everyone who’s joining us: yes, this review spoils some pretty big plot points)
So, what are my feelings on Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter? I’ll tell you my first gut reaction when the credits started rolling: this movie is one long, continuous, kicking rad powerchord. Played on a guitar painted with a mural of a unicorn driving a horn through the heart of a vanquished enemy. By a raptor.
It’s amazing because what they’ve done with this movie is basically take the doodles in an 8th grader’s American History textbook and turn it into a movie (in which case I have a history textbook or two to turn into a screenplay). What we have here is a bildungsroman of how the 16th president of the United States came to win the Civil War, protecting the nation from the undead menace of the Southern States. We even have a wise older-than-dirt teacher and a real 80s-style montage at the beginning when Abe learns to vampire hunt as a revenge-consumed young man (who subbed the South Park montage song over that? I did). Have to admit though, sometimes they shoehorn the real-life references in a little bit too hard, which makes it feel like there’s too much story happening off-screen. There’s a reason those Dickens novels like David Copperfield tend to work better as TV miniseries.
Now, you’d normally expect terrible acting for this kind of plot. But surprisingly, Ben Walker actually makes a pretty great Lincoln. I had my doubts since from the trailer it looked like they’d prettied up the role a bit, but he does a good job conveying the charm and gravitas we’d associate with Honest Abe. Anthony Mackie also had a ton of charisma as Will Johnson, the childhood friend turned ally, and Dominic Cooper stood out to me with his role as Henry Sturgess the surprise vampire and mentor. He did an excellent job getting across the weariness of a vampire who’s been fighting a one man war for a very long time. And of course, mad props to the villains of the movie, who really managed to convey a certain skin-crawling skeeziness.
But really, you’re probably here for the action. And the action scenes are just the most ridiculous thing. You got your slow-mo slave whip, a vampire fight in the middle of a stampede of horses, a fight on a train with tag-team vampire slayage between Old Abraham and Old Will… it even ends with a melodramatic batman gambit by Mr. Speed that saves the day. It’s almost like they took all the silliness from old-school westerns and war movies and turned it up to eleven, plus the axe action is seriously fun to watch. The slow parts may be a little bit on the slow side at times, but then another action scene comes around and draws you back in with the next rad shot. This is going to make half the audience roll their eyes and half the audience have a hell yeah moment, so you’re probably going to find something to like if your motto with action is the stupider the better.
So in conclusion: the acting and standalone scenes were actually better than expected, and probably better than the storyline really warranted. The ludicrousness of the plot mean it’s definitely not going to be for everyone, but I can’t say I was bored at any point. In fact, the movie’s pretty fun if you like a bit of absurdism. It’s basically like the film equivalent of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies which might be one of the more polarizing media properties in nerddom (same writer, by the way). Just don’t take a Civil War history buffs along because there as so many period inaccuracies and over-generalizations about the war that they’ll probably have an aneurysm and keel over right next to you. I’m personally still trying to wrap my head around the the implications of showing slavery as a result of Southern State vampires, but that’s probably more of a roundtable discussion kind of thing.
Also, that was totally Obama at the end, right? Does this mean there’s an entire alternate universe of all the presidents fighting evil? I want zombies at the Hoover Dam or Teddy Roosevelt hunting werewolves next.