Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)

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.

Big budget!

Pathetically miniscule budget!

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.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter on IMDB
Buy Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter [DVD]

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Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies (2012)

This is the first Asylum Entertainment review on this site, which is fairly surprising. 12 reviews and no “Transmorphers”? No “Snakes On A Train”? But here we are, with their attempt to cash in on the summer’s big mashup, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”.
 

Four score and seven zombies ago

 

I had the great pleasure of being accompanied on this cinematic journey by my wife, an American who’s a bit of a fan of Honest Abe, so I got a running commentary of “Oh, as if!” and “That guy would have been dead by then!” It starts off with young Abe discovering his parents taken over by the zombie plague, and he’s forced to become a man really quickly by finishing them off. This establishes the character we’re going to spend the film with – a quiet badass who’s trained in the way of the scythe.

 

Quick cut forward to 1863, in the middle of the Civil War. President Lincoln goes to inspect a fort, or something. My memory’s a bit fuzzy on how the film actually starts, to be honest.  But Abe and his advisors discover there’s a “virus” spreading, and while no-one else has any idea what’s going on, Abe knows that it’s zombies and knows he’s going to have to strap on the scythe and go and dish out some 19th century justice, so he assembles a team of Secret Service guys to accompany him on a mission to the infected town and fort. By the way, the Secret Service wasn’t formed til 1865, but don’t worry, this isn’t the first thing which is just a little bit out of time for you to get slightly annoyed about.

A little aside about Lincoln, played by Bill Oberst Jr. I’m no particular follower of US history, but my wife assures me he did an excellent job of getting the gravitas of Lincoln across, and I thought he was excellent for an Asylum film (actually, he was brilliant for an Asylum film). The man himself, who did an amazing job getting America through a civil war, is portrayed well and the film can be proud of that, at least.

I thought they were going to employ a ton of Civil War Re-Enactors for this film, but aside from a bit at the beginning, no. Unfortunately, a little too much of the film feels like a bunch of kids playing dress-up – the fort they use for the majority of the film’s action looks suspiciously modern in places, and there’s all sorts of odd camera angles which are no doubt covering for modern stuff just out of shot which would totally give the game away. Still, it’s Asylum, and they’re making a film for substantially under a million dollars, where no doubt the big film will have tens of millions thrown at it.

One of Abe’s men forgets to keep killing zombies

Anyway, they meet two groups of people – the last Confederate soldiers at the fort, and a whorehouse nearby, which is bizarrely run by an old girlfriend of Lincoln’s. Here’s three more bits of oddness for you – the general at the fort is Stonewall Jackson, the religious nut who died much earlier in 1863. One of the confederate soldiers is Pat Garrett, of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid fame, who would have been 13 when this film was set. Oh, and one of the kids who the madam of the whorehouse is looking after is, implausibly, a young Teddy Roosevelt. Now, I’m no judge of the age of kids, but he’s supposed to be about 10 to 12 years old, I’d say. The real Teddy would have been five years old. There’s also an appearance by someone who becomes rather important at the end of Lincoln’s life, which by the time you figure out who he is warrants little more than a shrug.

Why am I pointing out all this crap, I hear you ask? Well, the film had absolutely no need to include these people. Apart from sort-of rehabilitating Stonewall Jackson, and showing the no-doubt awesome Teddy Roosevelt could kick ass as a kid, these guest spots from the celebs of the era adds nothing to the film, which is about Abraham Lincoln and his men (including a black guy and a Mexican, it looked like) slicing up all sorts of zombies. The annoying thing is, the film is kinda fun! It didn’t need to crowbar these people into it.

I kept expecting the wheels to fall off this particular Asylum bus, but no. Saying that, it is a bit silly. The film looks every bit as cheap as you’d think it was, and there’s some dumb bits which exist to merely get the film from one setpiece to the next. But it’s really hard to dislike a film which has Abraham Lincoln shouting “Emancipate this!” while slicing off a zombie’s head. Also, it has a surprisingly powerful ending. I won’t spoil it for you, as I’d suggest you give this one a go yourself, and it elevates what’s come before it.

So, I’ll give it a cautious 3 stars out of 5. Probably the funnest Asylum film I’ve seen to date, and an example of what they could achieve if they bothered a bit more about the product and a bit less about the name.

 

Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies on IMDB
Buy Abraham Lincoln vs Zombies [DVD]