Seth Grahame-Smith Trashes his own Creation ~ Movie Review of ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’

Filed in Gather Writing Essential by on November 6, 2012 0 Comments

I have never had such high expectations for a film to only have them dashed.  Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is based on a novel of the same name which I read over a year ago and loved.  In fact after the movie credits there was a short commiseration of audience members who were fans of the book.  Seriously, it was a great humorous novel particularly for people who frequently read historical non-fiction and therefore are familiar with the cadence that many writers of that genre take.  Thus I was especially sad to find that Seth Grahame-Smith author of the book also wrote the screenplay.

            Even if you enter the theater without any expectations, Vampire Hunter doesn’t work.  Benjamin Walker is a weak lead.  Though he resembles a young Liam Neeson (he played the younger version of Neeson’s character in 2004’s Kinsey) he doesn’t command the attention of the audience as, say, Neeson would (Neeson at one point was attached to the role of Abraham Lincoln in a Steven Spielberg directed project – he was replaced by Daniel Day-Lewis).  The rest of the actors are okay but it feels as if there were several scenes left on the cutting room floor.


              Oddly enough the scenes that do work are ones that weren’t in the novel (a chase scene through stampeding horses and a train on a burning bridge).  I’m sure they were added to enhance the 3-D elements of the film and though they felt contrived (Such as when did the surrounding area around Springfield, Illinois start looking like the American Southwest?) they work well as action sequences.

           The movie feels awkward because it doesn’t register as being a comedy or horror film nor even a mix of the two.  The vampires and the violence are too intense so the absurdity of the idea of Abraham Lincoln, 16th president of the United States, was a man who hunted vampires is lost.  It was as if the director, Timur Bekmambetov, wanted the audience to buy into a dystopian universe where Lincoln’s exploits are more akin to the Watchmen than a giggle over the idea of an American president wielding an ax like a traditional superhero.  When comedic elements were inserted the best they can do is get a weak chuckle.  Listen, it’s hard to laugh after watching Lincoln’s young son die from a vampire bite (talk about a scene best left in the novel).

            If anything Vampire Hunter should be used as a case study which exams the decision making process of creating a movie based on a novel and where it can go wrong.  When all of the elements that made the book such a delightful read are missing in the cinematic version it begs questions of who decided what and why?  The only way to make my point is to provide some spoilers from the novel, so be forewarned.  The novel starts in the modern day with a down on his luck writer given Lincoln’s diary from a man he vaguely knows.  The way Grahame-Smith writes the setup is comical and he does a brilliant job balancing the whimsy of Lincoln as a vampire hunter with the reality of the historic time period.  He had a great line which was used during pivotal plot points, “Some men are just too interesting to die.”  Edgar Allan Poe was a character.  He even weaved in the lost colony of Jamestown into the storyline.  None of these elements were used in the film.

       I don’t recommend Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter for viewing in the theater or on DVD.  It might entertain fans of B level vampire films, but no one else will walk away happy.  For those of you who loved the book, I implore you not to see the movie because all you will do is end up crying in your popcorn.

            Happy Viewing!

Westerfield © 2012

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