Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter opens with a stark black screen. A Bible quote slowly fades in, something along the lines of “And I have named thee Abraham, for you shall be the father of many nations” or some such ridiculousness. And you cannot help but laugh, against all better judgment. Because it’s great. In many ways, AL:VH utterly fulfilled my expectations—it’s over-the-top, it’s serious to the point of silliness, and there’s some good fight sequences. However, where it fulfilled my expectations was in its ability to have a good time. I mean, don’t get me wrong: AL:VH is not a great movie, but it certainly is a fun one, and worth at least a viewing.
I feel as though the plot requires little to no explanation, but I’ll do it anyway. Abraham Lincoln’s (Benjamin Walker) mother is killed by a vampire, and he vows to have his vengeance. Fellow vampire hunter Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper) shares with Lincoln everything he knows about destroying the undead, and so their quest unfolds. Obviously, historical accuracy is thrown to the wind, but Seth Grahame-Smith did a pretty darn good job in both his novel and screenplay of working in the vampire hunting elements to Lincoln’s life. The accuracy goes about as deep as this: if you have to think about it, it probably didn’t happen.
So long as the audience is willing to suspend their disbelief, though, the story is a lot of fun, and very well-executed. There’s a very good mix of strong dialogue sequences and fight scenes, which does a good job of keeping you invested in the story while simultaneously not raising the expectations of the audience to a level the film could not meet. Unlike most films, AL:VH is very aware of its limitations, as a historical-fantasy-action-adventure-drama, and thankfully, it doesn’t try too hard, except where it’s funny. I’m honestly pretty surprised by the elegance with which director Timur Bekmambetov (of Wanted fame) was able to tell this story. It’s better than you might think.
That’s one thing that, for me, is so interesting about AL:VH: it’s a movie that could easily have been the absolute worst thing to come along in years, and yet defies those expectations, if you know what to look for. It’s a film that is uncannily reflective of the viewer’s expectations—if you want the film to be bad, you’ll probably see it that way, but if you have even a semblance of hope that it could be fun and ridiculous, but still a decent flick, then yeah, that’s probably what you’ll see. That’s what I saw, anyway.
The acting is pretty universally good, too, which undoubtedly is one of the major reasons the film works at all. Walker is a very relatable Lincoln and handles the titular role quite well, but where the film shines is in his supporting cast. Mary Elizabeth
Winstead is absolutely great as Mary Todd, Cooper
‘s moral shadiness is very well-handled, Rufus Sewell
(as usual) plays a great villain, and the occasional cameo (such as Alan Tudyk
, being hilarious as Stephen Douglas) really round out the cast beautifully. I can only imagine that this film was a riotous amount of fun to make. It certainly is fun to watch, provided that you don’t get a stiffy from historical accuracy.
All in all? I enjoyed AL:VH, for what it is. Although the term is drastically overused, it really is a quintessential “summer movie”. It’s not a phenomenal film, and there might be some who would mistake its hyper-seriousness for actual ego, but that’s not how it came across to me. I saw AL:VH as a film that pokes fun at itself, as well as the overly dramatic nature of the vampire genre in recent years. Definitely a fun little flick.