Movie Review

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

MPAA Rating: R for violence throughout and brief sexuality.

Reviewed by: Taran Gingery
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Action Fantasy Horror Thriller 3D Adaptation
Length:
1 hr. 45 min.
Year of Release:
2012
USA Release:
June 22, 2012 (wide—3,000+ theaters)
DVD: October 23, 2012
Copyright, Tim Burton Productions, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Tim Burton Productions, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Tim Burton Productions, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Tim Burton Productions, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Tim Burton Productions, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Tim Burton Productions, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Tim Burton Productions, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Tim Burton Productions, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Tim Burton Productions, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Tim Burton Productions, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Abraham Lincoln’s real and lasting legacy

Historical figures: Mary Todd Lincoln, Harriett Tubman (an African American spy, nurse, and cook whose efforts were key to Union victories and survival), Stephen Douglas, and Jefferson Davis

the American Civil War

The Underground Railroad

slavery

justice

REVENGE—In the movie, Abraham Lincoln is consumed with revenge against the person who killed his mother. How do you think the real Abraham Lincoln differed?

REVENGE, love replaces hatred—former Israeli soldier and an ex-PLO fighter prove peace is possible-but only with Jesus Christ

Featuring: Benjamin Walker … Abraham Lincoln
Dominic Cooper … Henry Sturgess
Anthony Mackie … Will Johnson
Mary Elizabeth Winstead … Mary Todd Lincoln
Rufus Sewell … Adam
Marton Csokas … Jack Barts
Jimmi Simpson … Joshua Speed
Joseph Mawle … Thomas Lincoln
more »
Director: Timur Bekmambetov—“Wanted
Producer: Abraham Productions
Bazelevs Production
more »
Distributor: Tim Burton Productions, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

“President by day. Hunter by night.”

Abraham Lincoln. Lawyer. Statesman. Vampire hunter. President. Leader. Wait a minute… vampire hunter? There’s something that the history books forgot to tell us about. However, this film, based on the best-selling novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, is not revisionist history, but rather a fantastical “alternate” history, if you will. As Lincoln intones in the opening scene: “History prefers legends to men. It prefers nobility to brutality, soaring speeches to wild deeds. History remembers the battle, but forgets the blood. However history remembers me before I was a President, it shall only remember a fraction of the truth.” This story devotes itself to telling us the rest of “the truth.”

Vampires seem to have been around for a long time. It seems they were in America long before European settlers arrived. They were especially prevalent in the South, where many wealthy plantation owners were vampires who used African slaves as a source of food. Abraham Lincoln encountered them early on, when, as a boy, he witnessed the death of his mother at the hands of a particular nasty vampire, Jack Barts (Marton Csokas). Later, as a young adult, Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) swears to avenge his mother and kill Barts.

He falls under the tutelage of the mysterious Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), a vampire hunter himself bent on bringing down one of the most evil vampires in America, Adam (Rufus Sewell), the father of vampire-kind who wants nothing more than to raise up a nation of vampires. He trains young Abe in the ways of vampire hunting, turning him into a ruthless killer. However, he warns him that the desire for vengeance is not strong enough to defeat the vampires. “If vengeance is all you seek, you will never be able to save mankind,” he tells him. “Fight this war with me, not for one man but for the whole world.”

At first, Abraham resists, desiring only revenge. But as his eyes are opened to the plight of the slaves at the hands of the vampires and perhaps encouraged by one Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), he comes to realize there are more important things than his own selfish ambitions. He becomes a man driven to destroy the vampires, even if it means a bloody civil war, not for himself, but for his country, for his family, and for the beliefs that his country was founded upon.

Directed by Timur Bekmambetov, who helmed the hyper-violent “Wanted,” “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” pulls no punches. The vampires here are vicious, monstrous killers who tear out the throats of their victims with violent vigor and gore. Lincoln himself wields an ax with dexterity, although, instead of splitting rails, he splits vampire skulls, necks, limbs, etc. Blood splashes across the screen in copious amounts and often in slow motion. Several vampires are graphically beheaded. One is shot through the eye, although he recovers (the bullet wasn’t silver). Another takes a silver pocket-watch to the chest (it will make sense in context). Vampires and humans clash on the battlefields, with graphic explosions, stabbings and shootings aplenty. We see slaves, hanging upside-down, their blood draining into bowls.

There is some foul language, with one F-word, many misuses of God’s name, and one obscene expression. The bare breasts of a vampire victim are briefly seen, and we see Henry and a woman having loud sex in a bathtub, although no explicit nudity is present.

That being said, this violent vampire flick is surprisingly respectful of Abraham Lincoln and the morals and beliefs that he stood for. Indeed, using vampires as sort of a symbol for slavery, the film rightly portrays him as a man who desires to stand against evil and fight for the truth. The thirst for vengeance is shown as a destructive force, while the thirst for justice is the right path. “Truth, not hatred, is the greatest power,” Henry tells Lincoln. The truth, as Lincoln sees it, is that vampires stand for everything Lincoln is against, including oppression, anarchy, and tyranny. Thus, Lincoln finds that he cannot stand by and watch them destroy his country and that he can put aside his own desires to fight for the greater good, both with politics and with his ax.

The usual spiritualism that is involved with vampires (crucifixes, etc.) is absent, and there is a lot of talk about vampires being the result of a curse from God. On the other hand, Lincoln’s faith is portrayed positively. He quotes the Bible (“I must put aside childish things” in reference to deciding to run for president) and is shown praying at his child’s bedside. The Bible is also referenced at the beginning of the film (Genesis 17:5). Snippets of the Gettysburg Address are also heard with references to a “nation under God.”

Visually, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” is stylistically rendered. The action scenes, while brutal, are amazing—from a chase through a herd of stampeding horses to a reenactment of the Gettysburg battle with vampires, to the climactic fight on a train crossing a burning bridge. Benjamin Walker makes a decent Lincoln, while Sewell is an excellent villain. However, the screenplay is loaded with clichés, and the story feels very rushed, several times.

In conclusion, this is ultimately an action-packed adventure film that turns Lincoln into an action hero who is as comfortable hacking vampires to bits as he is at giving speeches. It also holds true to the ideals that Lincoln upheld and that ultimately lead him lead the country through the Civil War. Although it plays fast and furious with historical events and people (look for appearances by Lincoln’s political opponent, Stephen Douglas and champion of the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman), it also deftly welds fantasy with the truth behind what drove Lincoln to fight. It is not always an even film, with pacing and storytelling issues, and it is certainly always a violent film, usually graphically so, but with the above strong cautions in mind, mature viewers who are not adverse to vampire flicks will find something to appreciate here.

Violence: Extreme / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—My first encounter with one of the new “paranormal speculative fiction” historical novels was to screech to a halt in a bookstore and threaten to shout bloody murder. The very idea of Queen Victoria slaying werewolves or Abraham Lincoln taking after vampires offends my very historical-based sensibilities. Imagine my surprise therefore to take a chance on this big-screen adaptation of the novel and actually enjoy it. What unfolds over two hours is a movie of more charm than I anticipated, particularly in its delightful depiction of the introduction and courtship of Abe and Mary. Some of the action scenes are truly jaw-dropping, even if they go in for a touch of the macabre and absurd (one vampire hurtles a horse at Abe, who then promptly rides it in pursuit).

The costuming is beautiful, as is the terrific cast. It’s an interesting take on “alternative history,” with style. It’s true that there isn’t much characterization, and it almost seems clichéd to turn a champion of the enslaved into a vampire hunter (the metaphor is evident) but it’s something different from what we’ve seen before, and it may (however indirectly) encourage audiences to read up on the real man, who was far more magnificent than this one, if not as downright cool.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Charity, age 29 (USA)
Positive—When I went to see ALVH I was expecting just another horror flick from the author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies(!), but the movie surprisingly turns quite good, especially the action, great special effects and good portrayal of Christian ideals, prayer. The movie start with Genesis 17:5 “…your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.” The great action and adventure has a few swearing and few sex references, like the bathtub scene, nothing explicit. Abraham’s romance with Mary is pure and tender. Even though there is quite a heavy load of violence, most of them are rather fantasy violence.

What I really liked is the movie’s portrayal of Christianity in such a positive light, and with respect. I should also mention that, apart from being a Vampire Hunter, his rise in politics was also a crucial part of the film, and his war against slavery and his passion for justice is also portrayed well. I couldn’t agree more with the reviewer comment, “… this violent vampire flick is surprisingly respectful of Abraham Lincoln and the morals and beliefs that he stood for.” Not for kids, but if you are fan of movies like “Blade” or action films, give this one a try…
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Cyril Thomas, age 32 (United Kingdom)
Positive—I thought this movie was/is a good movie as I watched it yet again on TV tonight, although I’ve seen better (and worse) movies of this genre. The action and gore was not over the top for me, (I’ve seen movies like “Sin City,” “Saving Private Ryan” et al) and neither was the language, cussing not cursing, cursing is what a person does to a person they hate. Also, to Jack about the “feminist propaganda” in this movie have you never heard of Boudicca, Joan of Arc, or any lady that boxes? Talk about stereotyping people based on gender.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Lucas J. Ammons, age 26 (USA)
Negative
Negative—Another left-wing attack on our beloved President. In this film, they depict our beloved President Lincoln as a man who associated himself with occult figures. I was shocked and offended. Praise the Lord that this film received an R rating (SHOULD HAVE BEEN RATED NC-17) because no child or any person should be watching such filth full of violence and a bunch of feminist propaganda by once again depicting women fighting men and winning. Would you watch this film with Christ? Think about this and what a film like this could do to your immortal soul. Films like this prove why Hollywood is sending our society into the pits of h*ll.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: ½
—Jack, age 31 (USA)
Comments from young people
Positive—I was pretty apprehensive to see this movie, because it looked pretty dumb. I was, however, pleasantly surprised by how good, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Slayer, was. There was, of course, a lot of violence and a accidental walk in sex scene (no nudity). So this movie was not for children, but it was very entertaining and had a very well thought out plot. Overall, very enjoyable. Not a waste of money!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Elisabeth, age 17 (USA)
Comments from non-viewers
Negative—I dislike this movie so much!! Abraham Lincoln is my favorite president. So this movie, to me, is totally disrespectful. There are enough movies about vampires without them having to make fun of one of the most respected presidents. I do not recommend anyone to see this movie!!
—Joanna Childress, age 21 (USA)
Negative—I just studied the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln in school, last year, and learned what a great man he was. And then I saw a preview for this movie. It looks dumb, and I will not be seeing it. A movie that mocks one of the greatest presidents of America, and I don’t want to support that.
—Brianna, age 15 (USA)
Positive—I saw the trailer for this movie, and it looks very bloody, like all vampire movies are today. THIS MOVIE IS NOT FOR KIDS. I would watch this movie, first, before letting your kids watch it.
—Joshua Sites, age 16 (USA)
Negative—I do not watch movie that has any kind of spiritism. …I'm not going to waste my time with the spiritism aspect of the movie. …The bible which is God's word stated “The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth”(Ps 11:5). Nobody seems to call a spade a spade it’s not an ACTION movie it’s a VIOLENT movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality:
—Isaiah 43:18, age 34 (USA)

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