One day history will look back at the past couple of years and note a curious little trend: Using historical figures and/or classic literature and injecting horror tropes upon them.
The first (and largest) wave of these works would appear in such novels as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies or Jayne Slayre or Alice in Zombieland. But one of the biggest successes would be the novel Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
So successful was this novel that it was made into a film in 2012. The film, however, didn’t exactly set the box office on fire and while the book was considered a well thought out lark, critics scorned and audiences ultimately ignored it.
Did they make the right choice?
In a word: Yes.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is, if nothing else, a handsome looking film with some pretty good CGI effects mixed in with some not-so-very-good CGI effects in the telling of the “real” story of Abraham Lincoln”s (Benjamin Walker) life and how it secretly tied in with his near life-long struggle against vampires.
Having not read the book and going into the film cold, I figured the movie’s makers must be playing this for laughs. I mean, come on…Abraham Lincoln and vampires? There has to be a chuckle or three here, right? Right?
The film plays out like a Cliff’s Notes (for the younger among you, Sparkle Notes) version of Abraham Lincoln’s life. We see his early childhood (and first exposure to vampires), we see him as a young man (who happens to be on the prowl for these vampires and is ultimately recruited to be just that), we see him a little later working and studying to become a lawyer while courting Mary Todd (while secretly ridding the town he’s in of vampires), we see his rise in politics (while continuing his fight against vampires), and, finally, we see him as President and discover the “real” reasons behind the Emancipation Proclamation and the “real” reason the United States became embroiled in the Civil War.
And while most of the film was muddled without building much (if any) momentum, it was this concluding segment and climax of the film that really lost me. For in linking such sober -and very tragic- issues as slavery, the massive loss of lives during the Civil War, and even Abraham Lincoln’s loss of his son (to vampires, natch), I developed an acute distaste for what I was seeing.
Perhaps the issues of slavery and the massive losses of life during the Civil War are simply too sensitive a subject to me to be played for such cheesy cinematic camp. Yes, I’ve seen plenty of movies that dealt with tragedies both large and small. However, to link these tragedies with something, frankly, as goofy as vampires felt more than a little distasteful.
Add this to the fact that the film suffers from a lack of any sort of momentum and you have nearly two hours of, frankly, not all that much at all.