If there was always one US President I have admired through the years it has been Abraham Lincoln. There is just something about him that makes everything seem right in the world. When I came across the book Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith I had to see how this mash up he wrote ended up. I was absolutely taken by the book, it is a brilliant read. It is a factual history on Lincoln's life, from birth to death, with the added fantasy through in that he had a secret life, a life of hunting vampires. This tale is woven so well into the life of Lincoln that it almost seems plausible. This book became one of my favorite modern novels.
When I head they were making a movie of the novel, which while I were reading I was hoping would happen, I got very excited, especially since Seth was doing the screenplay himself. Though my expectations were very high on this picture since I hold the novel so close to my heart that I thought there would be no way that this would be a pleasing movie. Before I get into the full review I just want to go on and say that reviews for this movie have been less that kind, some very scathing. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that some can't get past the fact that this movie has the beloved President chasing and killing vampires. One thing, it's fiction, two it doesn't represent Abe in a bad light so I don't see why there needs to be downing on that aspect. The more reviews I read the more worried I became for the movie. Like I have mentioned in previous reviews I don't let other reviews sway my decision if I want to see the movie or not and they were not going to stop me in seeing this one. Well I am so glad that I didn't give in and not go.
If you haven't read the book and/or don't know the story already it goes something like this. Abraham Lincoln is brought into this world a time when bad things were happening. His mother dies when he is young and he witnesses her death. From that moment on he vows that he will track down and kill the person responsible for his mother's death, Jack Barts.
When Abe gets older he runs into Henry Sturgess, played wonderfully by Dominic Cooper, some may remember him as Howard Stark from Captain America. Henry teaches Abraham the ways of fighting these creatures of the night. Henry won't let Abe go and get Jack outright. Abe pledges to Henry that he will give up friendship, companionship, love so he can become a hunter like Henry is. Abe only hunts when he is given a name by Henry to go and track down.
Lincoln makes little money by taking a job at a local surplus store run by a man named Joshua Speed(Jimmi Simpson from Breakout Kings). They become good friends and business partner as Abe starts to study law. This is where Lincoln runs into and starts to fall for the lovely Mary Todd played perfectly by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who some may remember from the remake of The Thing. Lincoln keeps all the secrecy of his hunting life written down in a journal.
After tracking down and killing Barts Abe learns that the main Vampire is Adam(Rufuss Sewell). Adam is the vampire which all other vampires came from. Adam wants a full republic for the vampires and is looking to enslave the humans.
Abe Lincoln is played masterfully by the likes of Benjamin Walker. Walker really brings Abe to life, especially in the action sequences. His big role came back in 2004 when he played a young Kinsey in the movie of the same name. He gives Abe life and gives him the edge that he needs to track down these creatures of the night so he can avenge his mother's death. He was a great choice for this version of Lincoln.
The movie is directed by Timur Bekmambetov and produced by Tim Burton. Bekmambetov really know how to set up action sequences and let them play out. He really loves using the slo-mo effect during heart racing action pieces and these sequences are no exception. I have been hearing a lot of gripes about the over use of these effects in Vampire Hunter but I didn't get that when I watched the movie. I felt they were used properly and at proper times and never felt they were used in an over abundance. The actions sequences were well planned out and really worked well through out the movie. The two big sequences in the feature, a hugh chase between Abe and Barts while running on top the backs of horses was just a sight to behold and the big train sequence at the end. Both were marvellously put together and executed and were very tense and breath taking. The one thing I loved about the movie was the pacing. A lot have said that the pacing is all over the place and the movie didn't flow well and dragged at points. I thought that Timur handled the pacing well and it never felt boring and actually felt like it never let up. It hits the ground running and keeps you at that pace through out the movie which I think works in its favour.
Now the big question, is it like the book. Yes and no, more on the no side. This movie is the telling as Abe as a vampire hunter, where as I feel the book is a biography about Lincoln that lets us in on his hunting world. The movie doesn't focus on his life so much as the book does, and I actually think it works for the movie. There are a number of characters and sequences left out that at first I was kind of down on, but as I watched the movie I could see why certain things were left out and characters dropped. The movie just worked and after leaving I really felt that the movie and the book both compliment each other very well. To me the book is like a history lesson and the movie is there to entertain us with Abe's vampire killing ways. It is a pretty violent and graphic movie, but one that is so much fun it's hard to take your eyes off the screen. If there is one complaint I would make on this film it would be the running time. At 1 hour and 45 minutes I actually found it a little too short. It could have easily been over 2 hours and still have been an enjoyable night at the movies. If anyone is worried about the CG effects looking bad. On the big screen I thought they looked fine, and I'm one to really tear apart a big budget movie with bad effects. They worked and didn't look fake like they did in the trailers.
All in all this movie is a great time at the cinema. Check your history books at the door and just sit back and enjoy the ride. Remember this isn't meant to be a history lesson, this is meant to be a fun night watching one of the most beloved Presidents kick some vampire butt. I know that sounds preposterous but it's a hell of a lot of fun.
I give this film 4 out of 5 stars. It's one hell of a blood bath.