Because any excuse to promote my own stuff, I’ve already done a review of the Asylum Entertainment mockbuster version of this film, “Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies”, here – https://iscfc.net/2012/06/04/13-abraham-lincoln-vs-zombies/ . Reading that back, I’ve got some bad news for fans of big budgets – on reflection, I sorta enjoyed the Asylum version more.
Luckily, I don’t need to do tons of recapping on this plot. Abe, as a kid, helps out his black best friend, and not only gets a whupping from the slaver, but causes the vampire doing the whupping to kill his Mum. He goes looking for revenge as an adult, but instead meets Henry Sturgess, a vampire hunter himself, who trains Abe up to swing that axe straight through trees, and therefore through the vampires. So far, so good! He moves to a new town to do his vampire hunting and lodges with the real person he lodged with in real life, Mr. Speed (played by Jimmi Simpson, aka one of the McPoyle clan from ‘It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’).
He still wants revenge on the vamp who killed his Mum, though, and in the course of this comes into contact with Adam, the chief vampire, played on autopilot by Rufus Sewell, who can do these cool bad guy roles in his sleep. Young Lincoln doesn’t have the beard, and while he’s on an early hunting job, there’s maybe the most amazing bit of beard foreshadowing in film history.
And that, pretty much, is that. His advisers as president appear to be his friend from childhood and his old landlord; he keeps the secret of his other job from his wife, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead; has to kill his own son after he gets infected by a vampire and then goes after Adam right at the end.
Nice and simple. You’d think this would be the sort of film I’d love, with its genre mashup and wild ideas; but the problem is it fails like most mashups do, by expecting people to go “hey, history and vampires, this should be fun”, as if the mere fact of throwing two genres together is enough somehow. It also throws 3D into the mix, but as I was watching it at home, all I got was a bunch of stuff flying towards the screen, a profound waste of time (as is all 3D).
I’m trying to think of a nice way to put this, but it’s vaguely offensive to me that the Civil War didn’t start because of slavery, and because the Southern states wanted to subjugate blacks, but because vampires wanted easy access to food. The real Abraham Lincoln would have probably let the pre-Civil War southern states keep slavery, as long as they stayed in the Union, but they put a speech in his mouth where he insists that slavery should be abolished forever – small potatoes, in a film with vampires in it, I know, but still irritating. On the plus side, the film pretty much states that Harriet Tubman and the rest of the heroes of the Underground Railroad won the war for the North, which I liked.
The action sequences, for such a big-budget film and competent action director (Timur Bekambetov, who did Nightwatch and Wanted), are a bit crap. There’s a horseback fight scene early on which looks like it came out of a cheap computer game, and the climactic train scene at the end may have looked great in the cinema, but seemed a bit underwhelming on a TV. Also, both scenes are covered in dust and smoke, which is I guess to obscure background details and make the special effects easier to pull off, but it obviously looks like that, which is no good.
All in all, a qualified thumbs down for this one. It either needed to be more serious or more camp, and fell between two stools. Also, their choice for Abraham Lincoln wasn’t great, as his makeup looked obviously fake, and honestly the guy playing the role in the Asylum version did a better job. I know, it sounds like some asshole cult film reviewer trying to be cool, but it is what it is.
ADDENDUM: There’s an amazing book about Abraham Lincoln, written by Doris Kearns Goodwin, which I recommend everyone read. It’s the great book written about a man who, for his faults, was one of the greatest leaders of modern political history.