December 19, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

From the moment I saw the title Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, I knew this movie would end up on the blog. With a title like that, it had no chance to be any good, so the only question was, "Is it the good kind of bad?" Tragically, it suffers from the same fundamental problem that scuttled Drive Angry, only even more so. While there are flashes of the brilliant badness that might have been, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter doesn't know what it wants to be, and so the serious "historical" stuff keeps getting in the way of the goofy vampire-slaying. The best thing about this movie remains its title.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a cheesy Blade rip-off struggling to break out of a ham-handed anti-slavery allegory. I don't know if that describes the novel it was based on because I don't read trash, but it's the film we got. There's even a scene in which white vampires literally prey upon their black slaves. Oh, I get it: Racist exploitation is bad! What an original insight! It got to be adorable how the film believed it could surprise me, with plot twists, witty rejoinders, or sudden attacks that I saw coming before the movie even finished setting them up. The only thing 19th century about this movie is the way it telegraphs every "surprise".

Benjamin Walker stars as Abraham Lincoln, the 16th Emperor of the Known World, regarded by most as one of the greatest men to sit upon the throne, who also murders people by shooting them in the back. I don't know whether or not the filmmakers intentionally did this as some kind of inversion of the way the real Lincoln was assassinated, but either way, I'd like to extend a personal fuck you to all of them for having Lincoln do this. The character is obsessed with vengeance for his mother, who died not of milk sickness but of vampire bite. In fact, no one dies in this movie in any way other than a vampire bite, even during the ludicrous Civil War battle sequences. It really makes one wonder how nobody's figured out the whole vampire thing when hundreds of people killed by vampire bites turn up in mortuaries every day.

Actually Lincoln completely fails in his murder attempt when his gun misfires, and he runs away, with the unarmed would-be victim chasing him around and mocking him. This cowardly failed assassin is the Emperor who then crushed the Southern Rebellion with one swift stroke? Lincoln finally caps the guy in the face in a way that couldn't possibly have happened as shown on screen, but it doesn't matter because mother-killing guy is a vampire and so gunshots to the face only put him out of action long enough to set up a lame, predictable jump scare. Whew! The guy wasn't human, Lincoln's conscience is clear! The vampire kills Lincoln two or three times, but since this is the silly part of the movie, Lincoln just gets some blood on his face from a beating that would kill three normal men. Then he's saved by a guy who's English for absolutely no reason. It turns out Inexplicably English Guy is a vampire hunter, though we will never once see him hunt any vampires, and he goes around finding people who get really drunk before going out to murder someone and training them how to murder vampires instead of whoever they were going to murder (unless of course, like Lincoln, the person they were going to murder turns out to be a vampire). IEG takes Lincoln under his wing and teaches him the ways of the Force, hitting all the obligatory phases of Jedi training: "with the blast shield down, I can't even see", "hatred is the path to the Dark Side", "no attachments/love/family", and using a melee weapon instead of a gun. If only someone were there to tell Lincoln that hokey religions and ancients weapons were no match for a good blaster at his side...but this movie is far too humorless for that. At least when it doesn't give us a vampire throwing horses at Abraham Lincoln.

Said horse-throwing vampire is Barts, played by Marton Csokas to a nearly Baron Harkonnen-level of cartoony villainous overacting. Alas, if only the movie had more of that. Instead, we get Lincoln putting aside vampire hunting to wed Mary Todd and become Emperor of the Known World so he can fight the vampires by abolishing the slavery that's keeping them in the South where they belong.

See, because in addition to being soulless evil blood-drinking monsters who eat babies and hate Mom, baseball, and apple pie, the southern traitors were also vampires. As in, openly vampires, with head vampire Adam (Rufus Sewell) telling the rebel leader that he will provide the rebel scum with an army of vampires to defeat the Empire's stormtroopers. He does, and this army annihilates a contingent of stormtroopers using their vampire powers. As a former vampire hunter, Lincoln knows what to do: Melt down all the silver in the Empire, make it into musket balls and bayonets, and ship it to the battlefront, because silver is the only thing that can kill vampires. (Well, fire kills them too, but how could you possibly get that on a battlefield?). The Imperial war machine of the 19th-century is so efficient that it gathers thousands of silver objects, melts them all down, makes them into blades and balls, and sends people on foot to carry them to Gettysburg in one day.

Lincoln, meanwhile, is standing atop a moving train mowing down vampires by the dozen with his axe, along with his best pals Poor Man's Christian Slater and Token Black Guy. I guess Token Black Guy trained as a vampire hunter off-screen, because he's able to chop off vampire heads with Abe's axe as well as the Emperor himself. Fortunately, the vampires don't attack both of them at the same time, so they're free to hand off the axe to whichever of them needs it. To give credit where it's due, though, it's Poor Man's Christian Slater who gets kacked rather than Token Black Guy, so at least the Black Guy doesn't Die First.

And you know, I wouldn't complain about these silly parts if the movie had stayed true to them. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter only comes alive when Abraham Lincoln is hunting vampires. When he's romancing a hot Mary Todd, getting thrown in jail for beating up slavecatchers, meeting but never really talking to Stephen Douglas, talking to Poor Man's Christian Slater about how many men are dying in this or that battle--basically, whenever the movie tries to be serious, it's just dead in the water. None of that shit belongs in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. I want to see a tall, dark man in a righteous beard and a stovepipe hat bitchslapping vampires while getting a horse thrown at him by the Baron Harkonnen. The movie gives us some of that, but intersperses it with boring talky scenes that try to connect the vampire stuff to the life of the real Lincoln. As in most of his life, from early childhood to the eve of his assassination. And really, the clumsy, stupid, and useless vampirism-slavery metaphor--it's like making Hitler a werewolf: He isn't any scarier, and it trivializes the horror by divorcing it from anything human.

This is a movie allegedly about Abraham Lincoln fighting vampires, yet it's at least as much Lincoln biopic, with soaring music at Lincoln's speeches and Glory-wannabe Civil War battle sequences, also accompanied by soaring music.Try watching Van Helsing, only after every action scene, turn it off and watch ten minutes of John Adams. That's this movie. No, I'm sorry, that was a terrible thing to say, nobody should have to watch Van Helsing. Csokas is the only one in the cast who understood what this movie should've been and what kind of performance works for it. Everyone else seems to think they're in a real movie. People, there's a lady vampire in the movie just so Mary Todd Lincoln has another chick to fight! Mary Todd Lincoln! This isn't Merchant fucking Ivory.

The filmmakers completely missed out on what could've been the most gloriously stupid movie of 2012, and that's even counting Twilight, Part 4: Part 2. I've got it! New Twilight movie, only this time with Csokas in the Edward role going one-on-one with Michael Sheen as Aro for the Overacting Heavyweight Championship of the World.

Fast-track this baby! I'll have a script for ya by next week!

1 comment:

  1. Golly, a title like that holds such potential! What a shame the writers and/or actors couldn't get on the same page and create a cinematic gem in keeping with the lofty name. Now I have to rent another movie, and it doesn't sound as if I can watch this waste of perfectly good earthly resources while my children are awake.