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Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

From the time I heard about the book Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter until the second before I saw the trailer for the movie version, I had no interest in the concept. Yeah, I get it – history and horror cliches moosh-up. Wocka wocka wocka. But one second later I saw that trailer and I realized that I hadn’t gotten it at all. As far as you could tell from the trailer, this movie was gonna be treated dead serious. A historical drama that for some reason is also a horror action movie. It looked amazing.

That really is how they did the movie. There are no jokes in it, other than its very concept. And since it’s from Timur Bekmambatov, the crazy Russian director of WANTED, you can’t even guarantee that it’s not meant to be serious (although producer Tim Burton is a good hint in the other direction). Either way I love the sheer audacity of it, the “I can’t believe they went through with this and nobody stopped them” feeling, sort of like Ang Lee’s weirdo relationship drama version of HULK.

So I should realize that people being confused by it is a natural byproduct of what I love about it. And yet it still kinda pisses me off to see people completely miss the point. For example, dig this from the Rotten Tomatoes consensus:

“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter has visual style to spare, but its overly serious tone doesn’t jibe with its decidedly silly central premise, leaving filmgoers with an unfulfilling blend of clashing ingredients.”

Which begs the question: what dumb motherfucker would prefer the jokey version of this? What are you thinking, the Barry Sonnenfeld comedy version? The LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN quippy version? I challenge the conventional wisdom to tell me with a straight face that it really would go see and enjoy the less serious version that it’s asking for by calling this “overly serious.” You really think that version would be funnier than this one? You gotta have Will Smith in it to point out which parts are ridiculous?

I am betting you that nobody would see that movie and nobody would like it and not even you motherfuckers. So don’t ask for it. Just back away and let me appreciate this one. This is no business of yours, Rotten Tomatoes consensus. Leave it be.

(but here you go you knuckleheads, you get your wish)

Okay, AL:VH is no BLADE (and incidentally I don’t think it would exist if BLADE didn’t). But I think it’s a better than average version of the “guy learns about the existence of vampires and trains to wage battle with them” story, and there’s magic in seeing how that stuff overlaps with the historical biography of Lincoln: his time as a small town shopkeeper studying law, courting Mary Todd (Lucy McClane), getting involved in local politics, debating Stephen Douglas (Alan Tudyk, uncredited for some reason), eventually the presidency, the death of his son, etc.

All that stuff is done as good or better than a TV movie like THE DAY LINCOLN WAS SHOT, and just as serious, so then it’s a beautiful thing when it slides into crass Roland Emmerich type cartoony CGI shots of civil war battles. Or when Honest Abe runs up a wall, pushes off and does a 360 spin before axing a guy. Or when there’s a matte painting shot of the White House and it kinda looks like the House of Usher or a spooky haunted mansion in a Hammer movie.

Lincoln’s first-person narration at the beginning and end talks about how people prefer legend to truth, and that has a double or triple (or maybe even quadruple?) meaning when applied to this story. To the character it means that the people don’t need to know that he was secretly fighting vampires, to the audience it works on the self-referential level that somebody might prefer a ridiculous action-horror movie “legend” to a dry history book, but also it means we like to think of the heroic story of The Great Emancipator instead of digging into the more complex and nuanced historical truth of everything that went on.

The movie participates in some of that last one. This Lincoln grew up with a black best friend (Anthony Mackie) who even accompanied him in the White House and was the only one there when he signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This Abe had a visceral hatred of slavery his whole life, and was even criticized by his vampire-slaying mentor (Dominic Cooper) for being distracted by it. From what I’ve read, it is true that he grew up in an anti-slavery family (he went to a Baptist church that was against slavery and the family purposely moved to free territory), but his (ultimately successful) strategy was mostly a moderate one that involved opposing the expansion of slavery and trying to appease slave owners with payments rather than flat out abolition. He even tried to avoid secession by supporting a constitutional amendment that would’ve protected slavery in the states where it was already allowed. During the war he tried to be bi-partisan, so he was criticized by some for ending slavery too slowly and by others for not compromising and letting it go.

He was on the right side for sure but he didn’t have John Brown’s zealous anti-slavery righteousness like he does in the movie. In the movie Stephen Douglas (who he stole Mary Todd from!) says “slavery is a very complicated issue” and Lincoln says, “No, it’s not.” Which is what we wish he would’ve said, but he probly wouldn’t have.

I’m just saying that (like any movie biography, let alone vampire movie) it simplifies some important historical parts of the story. But I’m very glad that it doesn’t take away credit by explaining his opposition to slavery as a vampire hunting technique. I’m reading about the book now and apparently in that he’s convinced to abolish slavery to rob vampires of their food source. I don’t like that. That’s kinda like how in NATIONAL TREASURE our country was not founded on ideals but to hide treasure.

I was also relieved that the movie didn’t absolve humanity by blaming slavery on vampires. I wouldn’t be down with pinning our worst crimes on supernatural monsters. It would be like a movie where the Nazis were really aliens. That might be the book’s implication, but the movie makes it clear that the Europeans arrived with slaves, and the vampires only colluded with them. So there are still racist assholes on the battlefields, but also monsters with gaping digital maws. (Harriet Tubman helps with the plan to defeat them.)

Top hat’s off (get it, that’s a joke, I don’t want an overly serious tone to this review that would leave readers unfulfilled) to the casting of this guy Benjamin Walker as Lincoln. I guess he’s primarily a stage actor, and he treats it like it’s any other historical epic. I’d be more impressed if he did a Kentucky accent, but no accent is better than a bad one. He’s real lanky like Lincoln was and weirdly he looks alot like Liam Neeson, who for years was supposed to play Lincoln for Spielberg. And like Neeson this guy is game for both emoting and fighting. I love that he had to train to spin an axe around but also had to figure out how best to deliver the most famous speech in American history. That’s a challenging role there.

And yes, every time he spun that ax around I was happy. That’s a good move there. Glad they re-used it alot.

Despite the dry historical tone being the key to the movie’s success, the highlights are all the absurd action parts. I think my favorite would have to be the chase and fight that takes place on top of a CGI horse stampede. They’re crazy looking digital horses and Abe and his vampire opponent are Tony Jaaing around on top of them, doing flips and shit. The vampire grabs a horse by one foot and throws it at Abe. It’s amazing.

A comparatively subtle horse-related stunt is the “catch you fuckers at a bad time?” moment when Abe is about to lose an acrobatic kung fu brawl with some vamps indoors and suddenly his partner bursts through the wall driving a carriage. I wonder how those horses felt about crashing head first into a building? I bet it hurt.

And of course the Abraham Lincoln action epic would have to end in a high-speed, destruction-filled, CGI’d-to-death chase/fight. It’s on top of a speeding train on top of a burning bridge on top of an abyss. There’s flames and sparks and crumbling structures and plummeting trains and fiery explosions. It only took us 17 years to get from the climax of UNDER SIEGE 2: DARK TERRITORY to this.

I watched this in the 2D version. I was disappointed to learn it was fake 3D, because based on WANTED I thought this guy’s visual style would be good for 3D. Maybe it’s for the best, since the editing is chaotic and disorienting at times. But still being hung up on the Matrixy shit he gets in some nice little visual touches – Mackie’s feet almost but not quite sliding off the edge of the train, a knife flipping through the air and slicing through a burning ember, splinters exploding out of a tree as rail-splitter Lincoln super-chops it with his ax, a ridiculous number of gimmicky transitions such as a map morphing into the actual landscape it represents. And like in the trailer I got a big might-as-well-be-stoned grin on my face every time he was shot in silhouette in some macho pose or slow-motion strut but with his iconic top hat.

What is this? I don’t think it’s meta, I don’t think it’s mega, but it’s something. The feeling is something like man, you just know this is the movie somebody would make about Lincoln. Wait a minute, this is the movie somebody made about Lincoln.

For some people it might make a better trailer than movie, but I really enjoyed watching the whole thing. It is altogether fitting and proper that I do this. I highly resolve that impossible movies like this shall not perish from the earth.

nitpicks: should’ve worked Lincoln’s wrestling skills into it
should’ve put together a team of rivals for vampire hunting
should’ve had a “inspired by true events” tag at the beginning

This entry was posted on Thursday, June 28th, 2012 at 3:28 am and is filed under Action, Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

66 Responses to “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”

  1. I agree with you. This type of movie is better when is done serious than in “a jokey style”. I also think that is more difficult and challenging to take a silly concept and make it into a serious movie. To take a silly concept and make a comedy out of it is the easy way. Dark Shadows would’ve been a better movie and much more funny (or just funny) is they ditch the comedy and did it “serious”, like Russ Meyer did with Beyond the valley of the dolls.

  2. I want to see a Jurassic Park / The Island of Dr. Moreau but with historical figures instead of animals.

    You know, they raided tombs and took their DNA. Cue Sam Neill going “they have an Albert Einstein!”

    Gandhi turns out to be petty thug, MLK just sits around playing video game all day, Mother Theresa smokes pot and stares into space. The little kid comes and goes “you are famous people! you’re supposed to be righting the wrongs of the world!” and the clones kind of sheepishly band together and find some small semblance of their original’s greatness in the process of rebelling against the mad scientists that brought them to life.

    It would totally work!

  3. BR Baraka – there actually is something like that, called Read or Die http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Read_or_Die_(OVA)

    except in that it was clones of historical figures trying to take over the world instead of save it

  4. but I geuss your version could be called Classic Park?

  5. “Which is what we wish he would’ve said, but he probly wouldn’t have.”

    Or he did, but with the correct political massaging. We must remember that since Douglas won that Senate election because of how Senators were elected at that time, winning your slate of state legislators to vote you in and as the popular incumbent that was widely seen as the possible next U.S. President, there was little chance for Abe to beat him for that seat.

    But those debates when Douglas was forced to perform a convoluted kabuki dance regarding slavery and how he’s not for it but he is (which was why he supported Popular Sovereignty, both to score a railroad line favorable to Chicago and to not piss off people on both sides of the slavery issue, which instead pleased nobody.) Certainly Abe tried his best to massage his abolitionism to not come off as an extremist liberator, make him mainstream acceptable.

    But regardless, his rhetorical retorts at Douglas and poking holes at that Popular Sovereignty bullshit made him a hero for many Republicans and abolitionists who found a voice that spoke for them and to be fair, Abe seemed more prophetic of what was to come and aware of the political landscape. “A house divided cannot stand.”

  6. Vern, actually, the director of this movie is not a crazy russian, he’s a crazy Kazakh. He’s a native of Kazakhistan. This might sound pedantic, but the fact is this guys from the Eastern Europe and Central Asia do take this distictions very seriously. 1000 yeas of constant warfare and conflict that is still going on to this day do that for them. Mistaking a russian for a ukranian, a moldavian, chetchen, kazakh, turkestan, persians, armenians, etc, is really, really, really serious business. We can imagine why.

    Hell, among the russians, the siberians get pretty pissed if you mistake them from a russian of the european continent. It’s like how southern dixies in USA do not like to be mistaken for northern yanks, and vice versa. And if that is still a sore subject from a war that lasted 4 years, can you imagine how this fellas form eastern europe and central asia might feel for centuries old feuds and warfare?

    Sorry for all this, but i think it’s an important subject.

  7. asimov – very good point. Kinda like how Portugese might hate getting confused with Spainards?

  8. Vern’s reason for why he prefers a movie like this to be played serious intead of jokey is the same reaosn why i love LIFEFORCE and CASSHERN so much. Yeah, the premise is fantasistic (some might say silly), but it’s the seriousness which it’s treated and how serious the actors are on their jobs that wins me over.

    As i use to say, there are no silly/stupid premises, only silly/stupid filmmakers.

  9. RRA: “Kinda like how Portugese might hate getting confused with Spainards?”

    Pretty much. Considering that Portugal and Spain had at least one war happening each century between 1130s to the early 1800s, you can guess that it used to be an uneasy neighbourly relationship going on. Today, it’s more a cultural and national pride thing.

    But if you want to upset or make a portuguese mock a foreigner pretty fast, just have that foreigner mistake us for spaniards and speak spanish to us.

    In the mid 90s, we in Portugal had a fiel day mocking the americans when the FBI sent an arrest warrant for some guy hidden out in Portugal, and they sent it to Madrid, Spain. It was a barrel of laughs! I can understand some hick from nowhere not knowing the differences between Portugal and Spain, but the frigging FBI?? We exhausted our capacity for laughter.

  10. It really does make a better trailer than a movie.

    I was kind of offended by how boring this all was. My main problem with the film was all of the lifeless performances. It seemed like one of those “READ THE GENERIC DIALOGUE EXACTLY HOW IT WAS WRITTEN PLEASE” productions where all of the actors were miserable.

    Visually I thought it would be a lot better. I wasn’t crazy about WANTED, but I thought Timur had the potential to be a unique action director. Most of the action in ABE is typical speed ramping junk filled with dust and smoke and greenscreen.

    I did laugh at the vampire throwing a horse at Abe during a cgi horse stampede, though.

  11. Baraka: Actually that sounds a lot like that cartoon show CLONE HIGH.

  12. wade, mahybe the actors were required to act like how 19th century people behaved, specially those with education. People back then hada more stoic and reserved disposition then the more emotional people of today. You know what i mean?

  13. It just comes off as bored acting and bad writing. I could care less about what anyone was saying or doing.

  14. I wish Iron Sky had been done in a more serious tone. There were some genuinely funny ideas but the comedy was way too broad, pretty much at a scary movie level. I love these ridiculous concepts but they lose their charm when they’re constantly winking at you.. gets a bit creepy.

  15. Man I want to see this one, and this review only confirmed that for me.

  16. Timur Bekmambatov was born when his native country was still called the Soviet Union, and Soviets were always called “Russians” by Americans, so Vern is excused when he calls the director a “crazy Russian”. In a few years, when the United States of America have become 50 new countries, we will still call Texans or Alaskans “Americans”. Sorry.

  17. Well, I assumed he was Russian because he directed Russian movies, including the highest grossing Russian movie of all time and the one about the Russia-Afghanistan war. Now that Asimov corrects me I read that he was born in Kazakhstan, but has spent much or most of his life in Moscow.

    Russiapedia (which it turns out exists) classifies him as a “Prominent Russian” here:


    and says he “is recognized as one of the most talented Post-Soviet Russian film directors and the only Russian film director to enjoy success in Hollywood.”

    It doesn’t seem like he considers being called Russian “very, very serious business” judging from this interview:


    interviewer: Why does it take a Russian to reinvent an American hero?

    Bekmambatov: It’s fate. We’re very similar, Russians and Americans. We are huge multinational empires, countries with a very intense and traumatic history. Not so many Americans know that the Russian Tsar Alexander the Second freed slaves in 1861, almost the same year.

    I think you’re mistaken, Asimov, because Americans being offended about being confused between North and South is not a thing that I’ve ever heard of, and because we consider American citizens to be Americans. For example, Guillermo del Toro and Ang Lee could be considered Mexican-American and Chinese-American filmmakers, but only through ignorance would they be called straight up Mexican or Chinese, since they have lived and worked here most of their careers. And certainly Arnold Schwarzenegger or Mel Gibson would not be offended to be called Americans, even though we all know they originally came from other countries.

    So thanks for the trivia but I don’t think this one requires a correction.

  18. Actually, Mel was born in America. He moved to Australia with his family when he was 12.

  19. This review pleases me. If Vern liked it, then my positive review is validated and I can be sure I’m not taking crazy pills while the dullard lowlifes who populate the semi-official critical board of RottenTomato-ers are mostly wrong. I love disagreeing with a majority when I’m right and they’re wrong.

    Rufus Sewell’s flashback montage is the most intense part of AL:VH, but I wish it had been longer & more extensive. (That’s what she said. Sorry.) I was genuinely uncomfortable about the serious turn the movie took when he mentioned Africans selling African slaves. Human beings are evil dicks, is what he was saying. Not a nice message. But I like movies that make me uncomfortable.

    The Stephen Douglas parts are wildly entertaining for mere dialogue/stealing-a-girlfriend-subplot scenes, and I’m glad the movie’s ridiculous tone allowed me to ignore the compressed, ahistorical nature of that part of the plot. It’s fun to watch Abe Lincoln play it cool and Debo Douglas’s girl. Smooth. And Mary Winstead is hot.

    And the carriage rescue was nicely done; I always enjoy those scenes, when a near-forgotten secondary character busts in to save the day, like Nairobi on the freeway in MATRIX RELOADED or the ginger werewolf using crossbows & his shitty van to rescue Angel from torture in one of the first episodes of that show ANGEL.

    Fun movie. I’m a fan of that Khrazy Kazakh Bekmambetov.

  20. I hated this movie. I wanted to like it, I liked the book quite a bit, it’s a fun read, but I found the movie to be a dreadful, boring slog. And ugly as all hell! Good golly, what an unappealing film to actually look upon. As noted earlier, “Most of the action in ABE is typical speed ramping junk filled with dust and smoke and greenscreen.” I gotta agree with this, it looked horrible, especially compared to Night Watch and Wanted.

    And it’s weird how they had a perfectly fine story in the novel that would have worked out just fine in movie form, but for whatever reason, Graham-Smith changed his own story quite drastically when writing the screenplay, and he really did make the story worse. Why couldn’t they just stick with what he already had? Why change any of it? This movie just frustrated me.

  21. Seeing this Saturday. Should I wait to read the review and thread until after?

  22. I loved this one unabashedly. A couple great, memorable action sequences, a real likeable lead, some fun alternate takes on “history”, but more than anything else it just has an enormous sense of old-fashioned FUN. I sat there grinning like an idiot pretty much through the entire thing. Pretty much pitch-perfect execution of a concept so bizarre that this is probably the only way it could be approached.

  23. Vern – one correction (not to be a dick) but Ang Lee would be Taiwanese, not Chinese, right?

  24. Vern, Bekmambatov is very cheerful about the subject. Don’t mistake his cheery disposition on tje subject for all others russians and kazakh. Truly don’t, specially coonsidering that man of those minorities that once lived under the soviet rule, which was basically mostly russians ruling over other people, do not have much nice stories to tell about the past. Of this, the ukranians are quite a very good example. Even worst, the baltic people. And the people from central asia, which were trated as second class citizens in their supposed own country. Why you think thare was such a fever for sepearation and independence after the collapse of the USSR? Consider the case of Belarus, whose people are the bielo-russians, meaning, they are one of the various type of russian people, and they are now independent. You think tis happened by a spur of the moment thing? No, it’s the result of decade old, centuries old tensions finally exploding. And a far more dramatic axample happened with Chechenia.

    Bekmambatov good humour about it makes him more the exception then the rule.

    By the way, if you want to see a really good kazakh movie, check out MONGOL. It’s the story of Genghis Khan and his rise to power. Badass stuff.

  25. Cleave, the ending of IRON SKY is actually quite serious, all things considering. I’d need to spoil the movie to go into detail why, which i’ll not. But for a comedy, IRON SKY is far less goofy then most would believe from the premise alone. The ending is quite dead serious.

  26. “when the United States of America have become 50 new countries, we will still call Texans or Alaskans “Americans”. Sorry.”

    Then so would be all other people in Canada and from Mexico to Terra Del Fuego. Because those countries exist in this continent calle America.

    In fact, by logic, what are today called americans should be called unitedstadians, not americans, because the name of your country is UNITED STATES of America, because, like, it’s placed in the continent of America. Had your country started out in Africa from the same historical conditions, we would know it as UNITED STATES OF AFRICA. Or if started in europe, UNITED STATES OF EUROPE. The thing is your country started as union of different states that existed in the continent of America.

    Of course, nobody is going to start calling americans by any other name. That would be absurd and an exercise in futility.

  27. neal2zod, the taiwaneses are chinese. Chinese actually is an umbrella designation for a wide group of people. To callsomebody as chinese is to call soembody, say, me, as european. I’m both european and portuguese, both are correct.

    The name of the country itself is not Taiwan, despite popular belief. Taiwan is the name of an island. The country that exists in that island is officially called The Republic Of China, and it’s what remains of the Nationalist Republic governed by Chiang Kai-shek after they lost control of mainland China to the comunist chinese lead by Mao Tse Tung. And since the nationalists never surrended to the communists, the chinese civil war from the 1930s has never actually ended. Just like between the two Koreas. Interesting stuff, really.

  28. I hate being that guy (he said right before being that guy) but I hated this… but I also didn’t enjoy the trailer so for me it’s a better idea than trailer or movie. I was so bored, and while I would’ve loved to have loved the film or even say the scene with the stampeding horses (because I loved the idea of it) I hated the cgi dust and the way it was filmed. I did think the climax on the burning railroad bridge reached a level of ridiculousness that I started to enjoy myself for about 7 minutes.

    I did say to my buddy about 30 minutes in that they should make a new DARKMAN with this guy because he looks like young Liam Neeson. I kind of wish you’d gone with a motif of calling him young Liam Neeson throughout the the review similar to your X-Men review where you refer to Hugh Jackman as young Clint Eastwood.

  29. I’m glad you liked it Vern, but for me I have a hard time warming up to this one because of how the concept was created, even if the end result is fun and cool. For me it’s hard to look at “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter,” and not think of Steve Hely’s, “How I Became a Famous Novelist.” The parallels between Seth Graham-Smith and Pete Tarslow, Novelist’s main character, are way too eerie for me to ignore—or rather, I need some good arguments from my fellow outlaws to get me over my misgivings.

    Tarslow, a typical 20-something slacker, wants to get back at his former girlfriend after she invites him to her wedding. In a fit of despondency Pete hits his local Barnes and Noble, where he’s struck by an epiphany: he will write a best selling novel by synthesizing all the end caps and displays around him—specifically Oprah book pics—and show up at the wedding as a celebrity author in order to get back at her.

    Taking in all the books around him he creates the following set of rules to create, “The Tornado Ashes Club,”:

    Rule 1: Abandon truth.
    Rule 2: Write a popular book. Do not waste energy making it a good book.
    Rule 3: Include nothing from my own life.
    Rule 4: Must include a murder.
    Rule 5: Must include a club, secrets/mysterious missions, shy characters, characters whose lives are changed suddenly, surprising love affairs, women who’ve given up on love but turn out to be beautiful.
    Rule 6: Evoke confusing sadness at the end.
    Rule 7: Prose should be lyrical. (Definition of lyrical: “resembling bad poetry.”)
    Rule 8: Novel must have scenes on highways, making driving seem poetic and magical.
    Rule 9: At dull points, include descriptions of delicious meals.
    Rule 10: Main character is miraculously liberated from a lousy job.
    Rule 11: Include scenes in as many reader-filled towns as possible.
    Rule 12: Give readers versions of themselves, infused with extra awesomeness.
    Rule 13: Target key demographics.
    Rule 14: Involve music.
    Rule 15: Must have obscure exotic locations.
    Rule 16: Include plant names.

    In an interview he gave a few years ago Graham gave almost exactly the same story about his book’s genesis; he was at the bookstore, looking at a civil war display and a Twilight end cap, and BOOM, Lincoln was born, because hey, both of these genres are hot right now.

    The naked calculation to it never washed right with me. I’m fully aware that artists mix and match using their influences, but my issue with all this is that I’m not sure Graham likes either of these things all that much, or would even write about them except for the fact that he knows they’ll sell. Does that mean the end product’s completely empty or without merit? No, I think we all enjoy pieces of art or entertainment that weren’t the dream projects of their creators, and in this case I think there’s something about empowering dead presidents that’s caught the publics interest (why is a whole other post), but, man, it’s not like it came from his heart or anything, and while not everything I read needs to be that, knowing the origin story of this phenomenon leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

  30. Neal – you’re right of course. Sorry about that.

    Asimov – you made your original point, now it’s time to stop using this thread unless you have seen the movie and have something to say about it and that something to say does not have anything to do with J.J. Abrams or Prometheus.

  31. Vern — asimov does make one excellent point: you really should watch MONGOL. It is indeed an extremely badass (and classy!) picture from a Kazakh director.

    Bad Seed – I hear where you’re coming from, pal. You feel a little cheap being a part of such a callow and calculated cash grab. But you know, man, Hollywood is what it is. It’s not like PROMETHEUS got that 130 million dollar budget because people had such great faith in Ridley Scott’s artistic vision. They thought they could make a quick buck making something we thought was cool. Sometimes they succeed in making something we actually do think is cool, sometimes they fail. But here, against all odds, they actually do create something which is genuinely pure in its desire to entertain you with its goofball concept, and which also has the technical ability to back that desire up. It’s genuinely entertaining. I don’t know how personally emotionally invested Graham or Bekmambatov was in this thing, but honestly their motivation hardly matters to me because the end result is pretty much the totality of everything I want out of the concept. Would it make a difference to you if you though Bob Dylan or David Lynch was churning out great material just because they have to make a living? I guess to me, it wouldn’t. At the end of the day, the art speaks for itself, and FUN speaks loudest of all. A roller coaster designer doesn’t have to claim he or she had anything in mind other than to make money by entertaining you, right? Why should the writer of AL:VH have to be any different? I guess it would be different if it was Ingmar Bergman or something, but it ain’t. They’re pretty upfront about wanting to make something that entertains a whole lot of people, and they’re pretty upfront that this is their chosen profession. Is that really such a soulless goal? If you succeed, I’d argue that in itself justifies the effort.

  32. Vern, i’m a bit curious about this movie and i like this director. I really liked his Night Watch/Day Watch movies, and Wanted is fun. And he’s a Kazakh, an ancient proud badass people, he’s from a country i’m quite curious about.
    And i think i can say soemthing about movies, even those i haven’t watched yet, that have nothing to do with JJ or Prometheus.

    You shouldn’t feel upset or aggravated by my coments on how sensitive it is the issue among the different people in europe and central asia. My point wa snot to castigate but to point out to a reality that, i presume, is different from what you guys in the USA might be aware of. No doubt Bekmambatov is quite jovial and good natured about the subject of his nationality. British Empire Magazine did an interview with him when BORAT was relased, and his replies were quite funny and good humoured. In all his interviews he’s always good humoured. Sounds like a sweet guy.

    As i said above, my intention was not to insult or aggravate when i mentioned all this nationality and etnicity business. If it sounded like that, then it was my failure to comunicate my intentions. My appologies.

    And really, you would love to watch MONGOL. It’s right in your alley of badass cinema. After watching it, you might feel an urge to join the mongol hordes! Tadanobu Asano, of ICHI THE KILLER and Takashi Miike’s ZAITOCHI fame, stars as Genghis Khan. A fun aspect of watching that movie is you realise how much John Milius was inspired by Genghis’ life to depict Conan’s early years in his CONAN THE BARBARIAN movie. The famous “what’s best in life” reply that Conan gives is based on a famous saying by Genghis himself. And Sabutai was in history Genghis’ best and most talented general, a guy who never lost a single battle and who once mannaged to win a huge battle that happened throughout a 100 miles long front without the help modern day communications. Yeah, badass!! I love knowing stuff like this.

  33. Asimov, I don’t mind you making the initial correction, which was fair. But you haven’t seen the movie, and wrote several off topic posts just showing off your trivia about different nationalities. That would annoy me even if I hadn’t already defended my original statement with legitimate reference material and THE DIRECTOR HIMSELF referring to him as Russian.

    Now shut up and talk about Abraham Lincoln.

  34. This sounds like the most expensive MSTK 3000 movie ever. The description sounds just as batshit crazy as the trailers look. I already wanted to see it just because it looks like the dumbest possible concept ever, but this review and the carriage through the wall scene description have now sold me on buying a ticket. If you’re going to make idiot movies at least make them interesting, that’s all I ask.

  35. Abraham Lincoln,talk guy, good lawyer, pretty good president, had a way with words, assassinated, still contorvetial today, never splited a cherry tree in two with one swing of an axe, but aparently could bend horseshoes with his hands when he was a young man, and knew how to pimp a tall hat.

  36. And Vern, don’t forget MONGOL, please.

  37. Chitown, that would be the idea given by the trailer alone,but according to Vern and other reviewers, the movie actually takes itself quite seriously, despite the over the top imagery. that should make for an interesting viewing. Over the top imagery in service of an unexpectedly more serious story is a common thing in Bekmambatov’s career. Vern sure spurred my curiosity toward this movie.

  38. All valid points Mr. S; there’s something to be said for not knowing how the sausage is made! Case in point, I’m a LOST fan (although not of the ending) and it’s well known that was a cash grab riding SURVIVOR’s coat tails. I guess what made that work—and I would argue that at it’s best LOST did work within individual story arcs and seasons—was that the creators brought their own loves to the process. Stephen King is all over that show (it could practically be a Dark Tower tangent when you think about it), as well as the Twilight Zone. So in short terms, I get it: sometimes good stuff comes from the most crass and commercial of reasons.

    However, I do have a lingering ambiguous detachment not just from Abe (who I’ll check out on video; I trust the collective judgment of you, Vern, and my fellow outlaws) but of the whole mash-up culture that’s in vogue right now: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, you name it. While I love a good mash-up, and think it’s a viable and vibrant form of artist expression at it’s best (see Danger Mouses Gray Album) at it’s worse it feels as though my generation (I’m 34, for those wanting to know) is only playing in the sand boxes of our parents using the tools we lotted from their house, when really we should be taking apart these tools to see how they work, and in the autopsy creating things that aren’t so immediate to our own influences. In other words, I think it’s a matter of degree; my preference is that an artist be inspired by the works of other, but then dig deeper; no just cheap combination and juxtaposition, but drilling down to the core themes and issues that made the original work so compelling in the first place, and spinning out something fresh and invigorating from there.

    In my most selfish consumer impulses and deepest desires, I want new monsters.

    Now, is that fair to compare Abe the Vamp Hunter to that? Not really; I get that it isn’t supposed to be too serious. At the same time I think it’s good to step back and see it as an example of a larger phenomenon, and then add “I don’t want this to be all there is.” Thankfully there’s a lot of great, original work out there. For books I’d recommend just about anything by China Mieville, and have you all seen the trailer for “Beyond the Black Rainbow” yet? I don’t mean this in a thread jacking way, but more of an example of new, original work; however, I will add this: Holy, Fucking, Shit.

  39. Thanks for the review, Vern. I was on the fence about this and I’ll likely go see it now. I’m usually against this sort of thing, but if it was done seriously I could see it working out.

    Question, is John Brown in the movie? He’s a hero of mine and if I got to see him kill a slave owning vampire that’d make my day.

  40. Moby Dick Vs Godzilla

  41. Bad Seed — I definitely understand. I thought “Sense and Sensibility and Zombies” was a mildly funny title, but had no intention whatsoever of actually reading it. Then when “Lincoln” came out, I thought it was pretty depressing that they seemed interested in created a whole genre out of gimmicky titles. it’s like if SNAKES ON A PLANE had spawned a whole sub-genre of movies titled TIGERS ON A BOAT or SHARKS IN VENICE. Which of course would just have been silly and pointless. Just lazy, one-note joke premises which are just slight variations on an already one-note joke premise.

    I wouldn’t have cared about any of this in the slightest if Timur Bekmambatov hadn’t demonstrated that he was gonna take the concept and run the shit out of it and give it some reason to exist other than the joke in the title. But hey, some serious hustle like that goes a long way towards giving something a reason to exist. If they make a sequel called GROVER CLEVELAND: SASQUATCH WRESTLER… well, I was going to say I’ll join you in being disgusted by the utter lack of imagination in Hollywood, but honestly I think I’d actually go see that one. We can find out what REALLY happened in those wilderness years between 1889 and 1893.

  42. Mr. S, you and Vern have me convinced, I will check out Lincoln. As for Grover Cleveland, you may have your chance sooner than you think. Dan O’Brien, the head editor over at Cracked.com, just signed a $100,000 book deal to publish “How to Fight Presidents.” The hits keep coming!

  43. John Brown is not in the movie. I was wondering if he would be. I’m fascinated by John Brown too. I can’t believe there’s not a movie about him. But I don’t know if I’d rather see a full on biography or a siege movie just about Harper’s Ferry, like a period DIE HARD type movie but the terrorists are the good guys. Maybe a Soderbergian two-parter would do it.

  44. – vern

    George Macdonald Fraser has written a really good fake historical novel about John Brown and the Harpers Ferry siege, called Flashman and the Angel of the Lord. Highly recommended.

  45. The first movie/TV version of John Brown that springs to mind is Johnny Cash in North and South. Sadly, that show had a very questionable attitude towards slavery and had him pegged as a right out villain. I can also vaguely remember James Mason and Raymond Massey playing him in a couple of movies from the 50’s and 60’s that portrayed him as a sort of mad man fighting for a good cause. But the biggest impact his name has had recently must have been when Reverend Cole (Tom Noonan) talks about his time with Brown in Hell on Wheels. That’s scary stuff.

  46. I heard the “official song” of the Olumpics, “Survival” by Muse, and I swear if would better fit the end credits of Abe Lincoln.

  47. ANoniMouse, don’t all Muse songs seem like end credit songs?

  48. John Brown is one of those great American figures that would make for a good movie, like Eugene Debs and the Pullman Strike or Nat Turner. Hell, even just John Brown in Kansas would make for a great story.

    If you’re out in the East Coast sometime you should head out to Harpers Ferry. I’ve been once before and will be going out again next week and it’s just a really great site, not to mention beautiful.

    I’ll be going to this movie tomorrow for a matinee. I hoped to go today but we had a pretty awful storm and spent the morning helping clean up the neighborhood.

  49. I saw it in 3D so that may account for this, but I hated it. I also found the action totally boring, quite an achievement considering the horse jumping and train demolishing potential. Although I don’t even remember him throwing a horse so maybe I really couldn’t see what was going on in the dimness. The 3D itself looked fine. I wouldn’t have guessed it was a conversion. And yes Walker looked like Neeson but as pointed out, he doesn’t seem that into it. Maybe feeble attempt at gravitas.

    I love the idea of these mashups but I read PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES and it bored the shit out of me. It didn’t really have any of the joy of a zombie movie. Just a low rent imitation of what I assume is Jane Austen prose (never read one, just seen the movies) and every once in a while a zombie fight that only lasts a page. Based on that book, this movie and DARK SHADOWS, I guess I’m not a fan of Grahame Smith.

    The last scene in the movie was the only spark of clever creativity I felt. Otherwise, I thought it was Timurrible.

  50. I saw it – I loved it and will see it again. I went because I thought it would be campy or silly. But to my delighted surprise, the seriousness made the movie. Well the ax twirling was really cool too! :)

  51. Fred, that PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES is actual Jane Austen with zombie bits added in.

  52. I finally got around to seeing this. It was kind of a mixed bag. I also saw it in 3D (not because I wanted to, but because they accidentally started the 3D version and had to hand out those glasses to everyone). And at times the movie looked way too dim. I agree that it wouldn’t have worked if it had been jokey, but it didn’t need to be so dour either. I wish there was a modicum of humor and irreverence. Take a look at Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds. It takes its central premise seriously, but it can also be really funny. I wish Abe Lincoln was able to strike a similar tone.

  53. I really enjoyed this one. I had a big grin on my face the entire time. I liked the straight face and at times even reverent tone of the film, and I thought the action was great. It was like a crazy mash-up of a Shaw Brothers film & and a Hammer film starring historical figures. The excellent horseback fight scene where the combatants jump from horse to horse while fighting felt like something that could have been in a Kung Fu film. I also liked how Abe was always working on his technique and spinning his axe. If this had been a Kung Fu film the hero would have been practicing his technique and stances, so I thought that was a nice touch and it looked cool. This really was a good time at the movies and one of my favorite films of the year so far.

  54. So wait, I know Jane Austen is public domain but isn’t copying word for word passages still plagiarism? I guess he cites the source.

  55. John Brown may not be in the movie, but I’m told that Edgar Allan Poe figures into the book somehow. Which means the movie misses out on the perfect opportunity for a John Cusack RAVEN crossover.

  56. FYI folks, there kinda is a good classic John Brown movie out there – Santa Fe Trail starring Errol Flynn and Olivia DeHavilland (and Ronald Reagan). He’s not the focus but he drives the story.

  57. It makes me kind of sad that the PROMETHEUS thread is still going strong, and this thread is not more alive with discussion. PROMETHEUS was a disappointing bore, but AL: VH surprised me. It kicked ass and was a really fun film.

  58. I’ve read & heard a few reviews that mock all the ax-spinning in this movie, like that was the thing that took people out of the movie, stopped them from enjoying it or taking it seriously.

    Yeah, it’s arguably a little bit overdone, some of it’s superfluous perhaps, and the mostly unfavorable comparisons to the “kewl” weapons-based action scenes of, say, SUCKER PUNCH, THE KILLER, ONG BAK, FIST OF LEGEND, THE RESTLESS (Korea, 2006), the Dynasty Warriors PlayStation2 games, and, oh I dunno, every single stylish piece of weapons-based action-fighting cinema ever made may have some merit. But c’mon. It’s awesome.

    And all the twirling & close-up, analog-style killing Abe prefers adds to the hi-tech surprise of the hidden gun in the handle.

    It’s also important to the Abe Lincoln character, because we see him become proficient at twirling the thing, using it to great effect, maybe adding some gyrational flourishes to put the fear of Abe The Original White Fightin’ Illini into his victims while he slays, and then there’s a period of several years where he doesn’t use his weapon, so when he finally busts it out of storage, there’s a great little character moment where he starts to twirl it again, looks at his own ax & wrists admiringly, I think there’s an overdose of hokey cinematographic mist in the air, the serenely heroic-dramatic music builds, and then Abe loses his grip, stumbles, and has to catch the thing.

    It’s a great scene that shows the Prez is rusty at his night job skills, that he will have to use his wits more than his physical dominance to win the final battle, that ax-wielding isn’t exactly the same as riding a bike. It’s more like flying a harrier jet, like Arnie working the joystick & accidentally crunching some police cars in TRUE LIES before he goes to save Faith the pre-vampire slayer and says “You’re fired” to the Osama-wannabe.

    After a period out of the game, it takes a few minutes to get back your flow, your cockpit muscle memory, your ax groove. Abe Lincoln learns this, just as he teaches our 1860s countrymen that healing a country isn’t the same as subduing the uppity, racist half of it by brute force. He’s a vengeful hunter first (as a boy), then a lover (making him a man), then an orator, then a warrior leader & commander-in-chief, then a uniter & emancipator, and finally a martyr & hero. And it all starts with him learning how to do great things with that goddamn awesome ax.

  59. SPOILERYish


    Was I the only one who was openly pleasantly surprised, like a wonderful slap in the face, when the bad guy discovered it was all just rocks on the train and then the good guy says, “This isn’t the only railroad.”?

    I haven’t read the book, so that might have removed the “a-ha!”ness of the climax for a lot of people, but I thought that part was badass, perfect delivery, and I didn’t figure it all out until the same time the bad guys figured it out. It was awesome. Best line of 2012 cinema so far, in my opinion, excluding much of 2011’s CORIOLANUS and most of the awesome raps in the awesome Ice-T rap documentary.

  60. Mouth, I completely agree about the awesome axe twirling and the, “This isn’t the only railroad” line. I also liked how early on when they explained how a blunderbuss works you knew that at some point something symbolic would be used as ammo, and (SPOILERS) the film delivered on that promise in the finale.

  61. Quentin Tarantino once said that John Brown is the only historical figure he has ever wanted to make a film about. Of course I don’t think QT likes the limitation or even the genre of biography, but at least he played with the idea of a John Brown film.

  62. The concept is really unique but it is very easy to assume that some historical figures have their own secret side – whther that said side is good or bad.I think I might see the movie but for entertainment purposes only.

  63. So now that PRIDE AND PREJUDICE WITH ZOMBIES is on the way this is getting a lot of tv time. Seeing it again I still feel Abe is too much of a pussy and borderline rookie vampire slayer and not enough like Blade or Buffy as I hoped. Those two are clearly the modern gold standard of vampire slayers outside the Belmont clan. Fuck a Van Helsing. Still an ok movie but man what really could’ve been. This shit could’ve spawned a franchise if it was a little more ballsy than it already was (TEDDY ROOSEVELT: WEREWOLF HUNTER and FDR: GHOST CATCHER could’ve been next)


  65. TONY ABBOTT: BUDGIE SMUGGLER (Vern’s Aussie readers will understand. Everybody else, you don’t want to know…)

  66. Nope, sorry, the straight faced tone of the movie was more or less what turned me off. I’m kinda glad it’s not the kind of movie where Abe constantly mugs into the camera to remind us that this isn’t meant to be taken seriously, but the whole thing was so dour, joyless and most of all tone deaf and tasteless*, that I couldn’t enjoy it. The only moment that hit the right note between “We know it’s silly” and “But we don’t care”, was the horse stampede.

    *Come on, it took less than 5 minutes until the whipping of a black kid was filmed like a super cool special effect moment and it’s incredible (not in a good way) that just a few years ago a movie with the premise “Slavery was just a cover-up for vampire activities and most people who died in Gettysburg where actually killed by vampires” was allowed to run in theatres without any controversy!

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