As a student of both history and horror, I was delighted to hear Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was being adapted for the big screen. Even though it sounded inherently stupid (I haven’t read the book, although I hear it’s good), I thought it might turn out to be pretty cool. It didn’t.
If you’re looking for subtlety in the thoughtful examination of major issues facing 19th century America, you won’t find it here. Let’s take the issue of slavery. The first scene involves a slave master relentlessly beating a black child and his family for no apparent reason. There’s even a slow-motion close-up of the whip splitting open the boy’s face. Did anybody think that was cool? It wasn’t.
That’s one of the big problems with the film—it takes itself very seriously. Like it’s a legitimate period piece that expects to have the Academy buzzing its praises. Which might happen when the Academy creates a new category: Most Awkward Performance. The “acting” in the film was reminiscent of the drywall I helped my friend put up last summer: brittle, monochromatic, and smelly.
The way the movie forces historical figures into the story is so half-assed it’s embarrassing. Take, for example, the scene where Honest Abe meets Stephen Douglas for the first time. They have a meaningless, random encounter, and guess what? They disagree about something right away! I half expected “DO YOU UNDERSTAND THIS HISTORICAL REFERENCE?” to flash across the bottom of the screen.
Further fueling the crap fire are the somnambulistic love scenes, the drenched-in-CGI vampires, and–of course–the obligatory cheap “scares” that aren’t actually scary at all. Legitimate fear isn’t caused by a startling orchestral swell. It’s caused by good writing and strong characters—two things this film sorely lacks.
Here’s something Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter isn’t lacking: fog. If you happen to be a fog junky, you’re in for a real treat. When a scene takes place outside, bet your bottom dollar it’s going to be ultra foggy. And while this may add to the “atmosphere” of the film, I suspect its heavy utilization was due to laziness and/or lack of budget. Because when fog is covering the action, you’ve got a helluvalot less CGI to pay for.
So are there any positives at all? The film is pretty to look at. Sometimes. But if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen it all already. I did like that Abe uses an axe to bludgeon vampires. Even though he swings it around like a lithe middle school flag girl in every fucking scene. We get it Abe. You twirl that axe pretty good. Now stop showing off and go chop some wood. Somehow, that’d be more interesting.