REVIEW: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Pride, Prejudice and Zombies was a quirky, fun mash-up of genres that sparked a brief fad of similar works. Of the rushed releases to fight for shelf space, about the only worth successor was Seth Grahame-Smith’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. This is early Abe; pre-White House, when the rail splitter used his axe in imaginative ways, keeping the frontier safe from the undead. Given the nation’s continuing fascination with Honest Abe, it was tailor made for Hollywood.
This summer, we got director Timur Bekmambetov’s interpretation and thanks to a script from Grahame-Smith, the finished product is pretty much what you expect: atmospheric popcorn fun. While attention has returned to the more somber Abe with Steve Spielberg’s forthcoming Lincoln, 20th Century Home Entertainment has released Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter on home video and it’s well worth a look.
Starring Benjamin Walker, the film’s protagonist looks perfectly capable of dealing death to vampires while cracking the occasional joke which was the man’s signature. The story sets out early in his life when he saw his mother poisoned by a vampire, named Jack Barts (Marton Csokas), and years later, after being trained by Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), exacts his grisly revenge, setting Lincoln on his path to destiny. Along the way, he befriends shopkeeper Joshua Speed (Jimmi Simpson), working and living at the general store. And he meets his future wife, Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), when she was young, pretty and still sane. We rush through the 1800s at a pretty fast clip so suddenly he’s president and the Civil War is threatening.
His mission to eradicate vampires leads him to learn they all report to Southern plantation owner Adam (Rufus Sewell) and his sister, Vadoma (Erin Wasson). Adams offers Confederate president Jefferson Davis (John Rothman) his vampire’s allegiance in the coming war. Don’t come looking for a history lesson in the plot although it does nicely weave the vampires’ plight and desire for dominance into the slavery issue (slaves make for plentiful and tasty food it seems). Nor should you look for the vamps to follow the standard rules so the bitten become vampires instantly and Abe’s axe is dipped in silver, better for werewolves than vampires.
The film veers from playing it with tongue firmly in cheek to deadly serious and the shifting can be jarring and dissatisfying. Bekmambetov, best known for the stylish Wanted, does a better job with the look of the film, using a dark color palette and keeping things feeling eerie. His action is frenetic but unoriginal, which is a shame. His cast does what they can but the tone affects their performances, wasting some fine potential.
Thankfully, the transfer to disc is pretty flawless and sounds good. The Combo Pack comes with the standard Blu-ray, DVD, and a code for both an iTunes digital copy and UltraViolet copy. The extras are a standard assortment, starting with Audio Commentary with Writer Seth Grahame-Smith which is interesting although his wit needed more air time. The Great Calamity (7:43), is an interesting CGI-animated short about vampires in America as told by Edgar Allen Poe to Lincoln, featuring the story of Elizabeth Bathory. The Making of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (75:21) is a five-part making-of documentary which tells you everything you need to know and then some. Lincoln Park’s “Powerless” Music Video (2:54) and theatrical trailer round out the assorted extras.