Saturday, February 2, 2013

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)

Director: Timur Bekmambetov                           Writer: Seth Grahame-Smith
Film Score: Henry Jackman                              Cinematography: Caleb Deschanel
Starring: Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Rufus Sewell & Mary Elizabeth Winstead

I can tell you straight out, I’m not a fan of super hero movies. Batman, Spiderman, Iron Man, the Avengers, they’re just not interesting to me. That said, there are a couple of graphic novel films that are close to my heart for very specific reasons. As a lover of classic literature, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is one of my guilty pleasures. And as someone who has been a fan of the old Universal horror films since I was a kid, I can somehow forgive all the schlock in Van Helsing. Well, I now have a new guilty pleasure. Though I had only dim hopes for it going in, I found Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter to be a delightful film. The aspect that really drew me in on this one was the historical, and I think that’s what really makes the film work. Because we have been inundated with modern vampire films, from the execrable Twilight series, to the new TV show Being Human, the timeless quality of Vampire Hunter is a huge plus.

There’s a lot to like about the film. The manipulation of the digital imaging to give the entire film a sepia toned look transforms the sets and scenery into a Matthew Brady photograph and keeps the viewer firmly ensconced in the nineteenth century. Absent this, it’s one of the many things that made the rip-off Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies such a disaster. The script, by the author of the original novel, is well done, too. Young Abe helps save a slave boy his same age from an evil slave trader and the two meet up later on. In addition, we meet Stephen Douglas, engaged to Mary Todd and Abe can’t help himself from stealing her affections away. There are some good actors, as well. In addition to Benjamin Walker, who does a terrific turn as Lincoln, both Dominic Cooper and Rufus Sewell lend much appreciated acting gravitas to the proceedings.

About the only real negative for me was the climax. My particular philosophy of the horror film is that it is best when ordinary people are placed in extraordinary circumstances and must battle for their lives against a supernatural anomaly. When too many things are out of the ordinary, we begin edging into sci-fi or fantasy and then I lose interest. The climax of the piece relies too heavily on CGI and this is where its comic book side begins to show, as Lincoln begins to defy the laws of physics. To be fair, the story began its life as a novel by Sethe Grahame-Smith, not as a graphic novel, but the theory still holds. The over-the-top ending, in my opinion, goes just a bit too far. Still, this does not mar an incredibly satisfying experience. The film takes itself seriously, and that is perhaps the best part. There is no sense that it’s all a joke, and so it allows the viewers to make that determination for themselves. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is great fun, and a film not to be missed by fans of history or horror.

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