Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter takes the historical struggle of Abraham Lincoln and our great nation’s Civil War and turns it into a stylistic struggle of foe and friend, vampire and human. Animated scenes and gimmicky scenes that look plucked from a video game populate the film around every corner, but if there’s one thing I can say about Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, it's that the movie never plays it safe.
To buy into the flick, one must decide to roll with flipping history on its head and turning Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) into a man seeking revenge for his mother’s death at the hands of a monster. Yes, vampires are on the loose, and the only men standing between total chaos and a large vampire crew are Lincoln and his three friends, Henry (Dominic Cooper), Joshua (Jimmi Simpson), and Will (Anthony Mackie).
Lincoln and his friends start small, taking on the vampire clan at every opportunity, which includes fighting vampires in small shops and--wildly--atop stampeding horses. Despite the film initially following the trajectory of a revenge story, partway through the movie, Vampire Hunter decides to go more expansive in scope, creating an arch enemy out of the bold villain, Adam (Rufus Sewell), and giving our hero, Lincoln, some wider power. Lincoln runs for president on a platform of abolishing slavery, but slavery supplies a wide variety of southern vampires with an easy food source.
The conflict is pretty complicated and a little silly, and the story sometimes has to go out on a limb with side narratives to explain backstories, but the plot isn’t where Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter thrives. The action is key to the film, and when I first encountered it in 3D, vampires dropping from paintings and axes splintering walls and trees blew me away. Still, on a smaller, 2D screen, the action remains the focus, and while scenes don’t pop quite as well, it’s not enough to take away from the overall enjoyability of the movie. It’s gutsy, and it’s enthralling.
It’s also very strange. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter doesn’t bat an eyelash as it throws obscure visions at us. There’s a bloody Civil War scene where vampires destroy everything, leaving one man standing amidst the chaos. There’s a moment where a woman is picked up and spun by a vampire as he ushers her from life into death. There’s a scene where Mary Todd Lincoln (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) wants her child turned over to the dark side, simply so that child has a chance at life. These oddly emotional scenes are spun with the right level of horror so that they make an impact rather than come across as absurd. Vampire Hunter isn’t afraid to cross lines or take chances—director Timur Bekmambetov just asks that the audience invests in the ride.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is not the laughable movie many would expect, but it’s also too odd to ever find a mainstream audience. Pithy one-liners aside, the movie will be too action-filled for some and not serious enough for others. It was made stolidly, solely, for its entertainment value, but even that may be too weird for certain watchers. It’s hard to put a movie like Vampire Hunter into a box. Good or bad, there’s nothing else quite like it.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a movie that relies on extreme action as part of its narrative, and the first time I saw the film, it was in 3D. If you do have the technology, I would suggest purchasing the 3D copy for this release. I can’t tell you how adamantly I normally am against rolling with the 3D on anything—and even at the time of release I wasn’t nearly invested in the 3D copy of the film. However, having seen the 2D now, I really do understand the difference.
The set is pretty careful. I’m always surprised when a disc has the technology to resume playback even after you’ve taken the disc out of the Blu-ray player and popped it back in, and Twentieth Century Fox’s set has this capacity. The menu screen layout is easy and the backdrop is spooky--clearly some money was put into this release. There aren’t a ton of extras, though.
The bulk of the bonus features is a “Making-of” segment with three sections that discuss how the film came together and how the producers hooked up with writer Seth Graham-Smith, who wrote the screenplay and the novel the movie is based on. It’s an hour and 15 minutes long and also takes an extensive look at the action scenes and the makeup, the latter of which was headed up by Fionagh Cush. I wish there had been room in my review to discuss the makeup, because it must have been a hard task to create special effects makeup for the action scenes, but also to age our characters as the decades pass by, and it all looks extremely well done.
“The Great Calamity” is an animated sequence that’s pretty weird. I’m not sure if it was initially meant to be part of the film, but I’m happy it was cut. Audio commentary can be turned on to accompany the film and a music video by Linkin Park (does anyone still care about that band?) is also present with the set.
I’m shocked that there were no deleted scenes that could have been thrown in, but the “Making of” is pretty cool. The set still loses out for not having a 3D option, but if you don’t have 3D capacity, this is as good as it’s gonna get.