Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Cinema File #18: "Abraham Lincoln - Vampire Hunter" Review

I've seen two movies this month with vampires in them, one was a low budget SyFy Channel Original Movie, the other was Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. At the risk of being called a contrarian at this point, the better of the two is obvious, and it ain't the one with the bigger budget.

You'll probably hear this a lot in my reviews, but I haven't read the book upon which this movie is based. I'm told its quite good, and much better than the movie according to those who would know enough to compare them. I can't speak to that comparison. All I can say is what I think coming out of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and for all its exciting albeit CGI enhanced visuals, I have no idea what I was supposed to enjoy about any of that. I guess the novelty of it is supposed to sustain me, the fact that its a famous historical figure in a wildly unfamiliar context, and not just any historical figure, but the automatically funny Abe Lincoln, but it just doesn't. The action is stylish enough, but so obviously computer generated as to lose almost all of its intensity. And the story...does anyone care about the story? Did anyone care when they were making it?

Maybe it works better in the book, but considering this was adapted by the author, I can't be sure. I just don't see why this had to be a movie at all. A five minute Saturday Night Live sketch, maybe, but not a two hour big budget feature. Beyond the one joke, there's just nothing here, so I'm forced to sit through the story of this famous person's secret life as he just keeps swinging his silver axe into more and more cannon fodder vampire bodies until the movie mercifully stops and lets me move on to other things. It would be pedantic of me to have expected to learn anything from this movie, but a little interesting character development would have been nice. I get that they might be a little hamstrung by history with Abe and Mary Todd, but there are other characters in here too, and I've got no one to latch onto. The vampiric villains are one dimensional when they show up at all, and the vampire Obi Wan Lincoln works with does nothing for me. And that's not a spoiler by the way, because if you don't guess he's a vampire the first time you meet him, there's something wrong with you.

I don't really pay a lot of attention to media and controversy surrounding movies unless I already care about the movie, which I didn't in this case, so I don't know if the historical re-writing was offensive to anyone, but I wouldn't be surprised. I'm not talking about turning Lincoln into Van Helsing, as much as turning the Antebellum South into the literal hordes of Hell. I'm not gonna sit here and talk about how complicated the Civil War was in any way that diminishes the obvious horrible sin of slavery, but fuck if its a little more complicated than "The South is owned and run by demons." And if it were just that, I might have been able to forgive it as in keeping with the context of vampifying Lincoln's life, but the movie goes on to suggest that vampires were responsible for basically all human evil throughout history, up to and including the slaughter of the Native Americans. Fuck this movie so hard in the face. You can't just do that and expect me to laugh because its vampires. At some point, there's a line between developing a secret history to fit your plot, and inadvertently re-writing history to let the bad guys off the hook, and this movie crosses it.

And why am I the only one who seems to have a problem with needless changes to vampire lore? Vampires can't walk in sunlight. I don't care that it makes it harder to tell a story, it's intrinsic to being a vampire. That's why they're fucking called creatures of the night! Don't give me a dollop of fucking sunscreen. And can't we just keep silver a werewolf thing and bring back the wooden stakes? Conflating the two monster weakness just feels lazy. And then, to top it off, the movie introduces this notion that vampires can't kill each other. Its not like a Highlander holy ground thing where it might just be an honor code, its a mystical force that stops them from attacking, because only the living can kill the dead. Its only thrown in to justify the need for a noble vampire to recruit a human to hunt for him, and otherwise isn't integrated into the plot. This would have been fine if it was consistent, but then the two vampires have to fight each other in the end, because fuck it, who cares.

That seems to be the ethos of this film. Fuck it, no one cares. Just throw in some flashy action and nobody will worry about the lapses in logic, the inconsistencies, or the fact that none of the characters grow or change or do anything interesting that doesn't involve an axe. And even that stuff is so obviously fake that I can't feel the kind of excitement I would feel watching a similar movie produced at a time before CGI ruined movies. If you can shut your brain off and just subsist on the visual style, maybe give this a watch, but if you need even a little bit more from your movie, best stay away.

Am I too good to use "suck" as a pun to describe this sucky vampire movie? No, evidently I am not.

For more reviews in The Cinema File, CLICK HERE

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