Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter stars Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead and was directed by Timur Bekmambetov. Based on Seth Grahame-Smith’s 2010 novel of the same name, it provides an alternate history retelling of Abraham Lincoln’s life in which he is secretly, you’ve guessed it, a vampire hunter. Because they were written by the same author, I’ve always kept Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies very closely tied in my mind.
I was a bit late to the game on both of these films, but since I prefer zombies to vampires, I opted to watch the latter first. It was fun, but didn’t really blow me away, so I wasn’t overly enthused about watching a vampirified version of a period drama. Boy, was that a dumb thing to think. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is deliciously ridiculous, but also impressively fun and entertaining. I love it when historical fiction can fit made-up plot points into the actual life of a historical figure and that was certainly accomplished here. Abraham Lincoln’s major life moments, such as the deaths of his mother and son, his marriage to Mary Todd, and his decisions as President, have all been soundly pieced together within the fantastical context of vampire hunting.
Just making the real and imaginary fit together is impressive enough, but what helps raise this film to a new height is that, despite its inherent silliness, this story doesn’t take away from Abraham Lincoln’s legacy. Everything we know and think about him still stand and the vampire hunting plot only enhances those character traits that we hold to the highest regard when thinking about Lincoln. On its face, this film is supremely ridiculous. The whole concept is a bit silly, but it embraces that silliness in a unique way.
It somehow walks the thin line between taking itself too seriously and being too self-aware, resulting in a film that ends up being far cooler than it has any right to be. Abraham Lincoln, fighting vampires and spinning an axe around in slow motion sounds like it should be a parody, but it amazingly comes across as extremely entertaining action. Even the bigger action sequences that throw aside all semblance of physics (namely, the horse stampede) manage to be fun in their ridiculousness. It’s big and it’s silly, but Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is more than just a fantasy action horror film.
It expertly blends a fun what-if mythos with the real life of a universally-exalted man to create a fun-to-watch film which still puts the central themes that Abraham Lincoln was fighting for front and center. Alright, let’s talk about the pros and cons. Pro number one is the historical fiction. I know it’s a bit dumb at points, but I just really enjoyed the fantasy horror integration into the real life framework of Abraham Lincoln. Vampires aren’t exactly my favorite thing and it certainly seems like an odd pairing on paper, but I think it really works.
The major events in Lincoln’s life all tie into this fictional world of vampire hunting and the blend is nearly seamless. I was especially surprised by how well Lincoln’s core beliefs and anti-slavery themes paired up with the vampire stuff and I found it to be an altogether entertaining pieces of historical fiction. My second pro is simple enough: it’s fun. This film straddles the line between clever fun and ridiculous fun for nearly its entire runtime, resulting in a thoroughly entertaining experience. Lincoln’s training sequences and his vampire hunts are among the best parts of this movie, but the editing and filmmaking style help to elevate the majority of the film to entertaining levels.
There are plenty of “what?” moments that will leave you exasperatedly laughing and rolling your eyes, but the self-seriousness of it all manages to make even those scenes fun. I mean, there’s even a vampire fight in (and on) a stampede of wild horses… this movie’s nuts. On the con side, the biggest issue is definitely the pacing. It actually starts off strong in that regard with a fast-paced set-up and quick-moving plot. About halfway through though, something shifts. Suddenly it’s dragging and the plot that had been quite interesting up until that point begins to get dull. The movie is less than two hours long, but somehow just the second half feels even longer than that, despite the breezy first half.
My second con has gotta be the actual look of the film. I don’t mind the cinematography for the most part (and the special effects are a whole other thing), but there’s just something off about the visuals at points. Everything has this odd hazy glow around it that you might expect during a flashback scene, for instance. Unfortunately, it’s present in nearly every scene. Luckily, it’s not super noticeable during nighttime or dark interior shots, but daytime scenes are a bit distracting. I’m gonna give Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter 3.5 out of 5 paws.
I’m sure that might be a bit higher than most others would give it, but I found the blending of actual historical events and figures with fantasy horror to be really appealing. It’s a bit silly and ridiculous at times, but I had a really good time with it. I would recommend Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter to anybody who enjoys fantasy horror or historical fiction.
It’s certainly a silly movie (despite its self-serious tone), but it does a good job bringing history and vampire lore together. It won’t be for everyone, but if you don’t mind a dash of ridiculousness in your movies, you might really enjoy this one. If you liked Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, I would recommend Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters for another solid, albeit silly, fantasy horror film. It takes a similar self-serious tone, but delivers an entertaining rendition of the classic Grimm fairytale. If you like the idea of incorporating horror into historical fiction, you might want to check out Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
It’s based on a book by the author who also wrote Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, this time focusing on a zombie outbreak in 19th century England. If you liked the vampire stuff and want another film with a similar look and feel, I’d suggest you watch Underworld. It’s mostly set in modern times, but explores a war between vampires and lycans. Alright, a couple questions for you guys. Number one: Have you seen Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter? If so, what’d you think of it? And number two: What’s your favorite fictional movie featuring a real-life historical figure? Be sure to leave your answers in the comments below so we can get a discussion going.