Thursday, June 28, 2012

Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter - A review

Last August a dear friend Janine Spendlove held up a newly returned to her copy of Abe Lincoln Vampire Hunter and asked "Who'll read it?" Most of the assemblage in the room already had so when I put up my hand the book was placed in it.

I read it. Most of it. Well, I got about half way through it before I decided that it wasn't for me. Then, just as I'm deciding I need to "Lem" it, I hear word that it's been optioned for a movie deal, and a few months later I see the first preview. And I'm intrigued. The effects look amazing and the use of full scale battle scenes from the Civil War really catch my eye.

Okay, Mr. Lincoln, you have my attention. Let us see how you fair.

First let me talk about the book.

It's written in the style of a historical study, the premise being that the author has been given Lincoln's diary and notes from his days as a vampire hunter. It, therefore, follows a fairly dry historical narrative, interspersed with "Lincoln's own words" as various events are explained and the grander plots are revealed. This works to create a certain suspension of disbelief, as though you really are reading the writings of a lawyer and orator steeped in the mid-ninetieth century traditions. Also included are the obligatory historical plates showing photographs of key locations from the book, some distanced photographs of the key players, and the like.

It is intended to be read as any other scholarly writing on the period.

And is about as interesting. Which is to say, not very.

Now I may be spoiled. I simply inhaled Killer Angels by Micheal Shaara. I only took a few evenings to get through Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose. So perhaps my experience with the telling of history as a narrative is a bit skewed more towards the narrative itself.

So against that rubric I just could not bring myself to finish Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, the book.

Fortunately the movie suffers no such limitations. It is permitted to simply show the narrative as a narrative with the included internal dialogue of Mr. Lincoln as needed. Thus it is able to move more smoothly from scene to scene and moment to moment. We follow Mr. Lincoln from early events and his first encounter with a vampire, through his days as a vampire hunter living in Springfield, and up to his final days in the White House. We are treated to visits of Stephen Douglas, we see the courtship of Mary Todd, and visit the fields of Gettysburg in amazing panoramic views of the days' battles.

We also saw the movie in 2D despite the 3D offerings. Usually I find 3D movies to be confusing muddled affairs where I have a hard time differentiating the images, things get blurry and I start to lose track of what I'm looking at. This was a movie that despite a few obvious "LOOK! We have 3D!" moments, I believe would have looked even more epic, and fun, in 3D. The fight scenes include multiple slow motion moments where the camera swings to one side or the other as the action on screen freezes. Sure it's been done. Sure it's not cutting edge. But dang. It looks sweet.

The acting was about what I expected for a movie like this. Some fair performances all around but no Oscar contentions here. It was fun to see Alan Tudyk as Stephen Douglas, and I spent about fifteen minutes staring at Mary Elizabeth Winstead before I recalled seeing her last in Sky High.

There are not a ton of twists to the story. Slavery is bad. Vampires are bad. Vampires want slavery because it's a way to have an ever present food supply. Ergo, we need to kill vampires and end slavery. But, not having finished the book, a few of the later minor twists were pleasant surprises to me.

While I cannot recommend the book to any but the most ardent of fans of the Historical Mashup, I do have to say that the movie hits all the right buttons for what it is: A B Movie about a historical figure killing vampires.

One reviewer joked about "what's next? JFK blasting Aliens here to stop us from going to the moon?" I say, if it's the same team to make it: Bring on the aliens.


  1. I've had this book on my nightstand for over a year and have never succeeded in getting past the first few chapters. It's just a yawn. As great as you make the movie sound, I probably won't see it -- because it's just not as fun for me if I can't snort and tut my way through while muttering "The book was better/I can't believe they left X out/omg, they ruined it."

    1. Wait, so you won't see a movie ~unless~ you can say the book was better?

      Heh. I spent half the movie going "Way better than the book!"