When it comes to books, movies and music, I am a slut. I like a lot of stuff, and while this may seem to indicate I have low standards, that’s not true. I just prefer to write about what I enjoy. But lo and behold, the time has come to pan something: Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.
(Johnny Cash’s voice is slumming, bigtime.)
During our recent trip to L.A. for VidCon (I blogged about the conference on DadWagon) my fourteen-year-old son Jack and I killed a perfectly good L.A. afternoon sitting in an exquisite theater (that made it worse) watching this turd, which is based on a successful book shelved not far from Pride & Prejudice and Zombies.
I’ve not felt so annoyed at a film in years. Also noteworthy: my son’s disdainful, commiserative chortling. (The scant few fellow audience members did likewise.) In the past, Jack and I sat through quite a few crappy movies he LOVED, but those days are gone. Apparently he has limits, and an evolving sense of taste. Sigh of relief.
Perhaps you’re reading the title of this post and thinking, “Duh.” And you are right: I did not expect Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter to be good, per se, but I was hoping at least for camp, especially as Tim Burton is a producer. I like camp. But no. ALVH is just a pandering, insanely expensive waste of time.
Child Abe rushes to help his Young Black Friend, who is being whipped by a Racist Vampire (in the daylight… more on that in a sec). To exact revenge, later that night, RV kills Abe’s mom as he watches in impotent horror. Carrying shame and grief inside him, Abe grows to young manhood and is befriended by Friendly Vampire, who, incidentally, is having sex with Woman In Bathtub. FV tells Abe: as with the North and South, vampires have two warring factions – one that wants to annihilate humanity, one that wants to stay in the shadows. FV is of the latter. He wants Evil Vampire Kingpin killed, but guess what? Only humans can kill vampires. Also, EVK is in cahoots with Racist Vampire, aka Abe’s mom’s murderer! So FV instructs Abe in the wielding of a silver-tipped axe (silver kills vampires) with which Abe, when not studying for the bar and keeping a shop, becomes something of a superhero.
Abe kills many undead – lots and lots of chocolatey blood – but can’t track down Kingpin. So he decides to withdraw from vampire hunting to get married, start a family, and become president, conferring with Harriet Tubman on Slavery Issues (also availing himself of her aid when he is being pursued by the undead) and making Young Black Friend a member of his cabinet. Meanwhile, the anti-human vampires align with the Confederacy, in the hopes of lots of slave blood. (Really.) Jefferson Davis does not suspect their desire to eventually take over. Also, Kingpin sends Blonde Bombshell Vampire to the White House to kill Abe’s son, Edward, forcing grief-stricken Abe back into hunting.
All the while, the plentiful gore is top-notch, the action sequences almost comedic in their Matrix-esque grace, and the hair and costumes are gorgeous. Clearly, the production is assured we will allow anything story-wise if we are bedazzled, and even though I am somewhat indiscriminating, I resent that. I’m not that slutty!
Criticisms aside, lanky Benjamin Walker is a GREAT Abe. But this fact makes the movie all the more difficult. (Daniel Day-Lewis will be playing Abe in Spielberg’s upcoming Lincoln. He’s about the only actor who could better Walker, methinks.) Walker’s rise to fame began with his nabbing the titular role in the Off-Broadway musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (perhaps next he will be… Millard Fillmore, Zombie Nemesis?) But his greatness cannot compete with the frequently modern-sounding soap opera dialogue and the ludicrous action. Scenery-chewers Dominic Cooper and Rufus Sewell, plus embarrassed-looking Mary Elizabeth Winstead, all deserve better.
The Civil War story is rich and, for my money, has not yet been done cinematic justice. With that in mind, seeing extravagant CGI used to recreate Gettysburg as fought by Vampire Confederates is excruciating. Such a waste. Perhaps Spielberg will remedy this somewhat in Lincoln. But the War and the President need separate movies.
And finally, what’s with vampires being able to walk in the daylight – in fancy steam punk shades – eat, drink, and have sex in the bathtub? This is not cricket. I blame Stephenie Meyer. Anne Rice got it right: the Dark Gift, which includes immortality and superpowers, has a hefty price. Once a vampire, you die in the sun and you forfeit many human pleasures, including food, drink, and coitus. All you want is blood, like a junkie wants a fix. Everyone for whom desire creates confusion (i.e. everyone) can jump on that metaphor; i.e. what if I could funnel it all into one, simple thing and live forever? To lower the stakes of the deal makes everything a lot less interesting.
If you dress up your vampires in cool sunglasses and put ’em in a copper tub with a nekkid lady, however, people will pay 13 bucks to see them, I reckon. Interesting or not. yet I will allow that Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter was a learning experience, a teaching opportunity with my son (THAT is a sucky movie) with whom I have been discussing various aspects of suckiness for days now. That’s fun.
But if you want a date for Millard Fillmore, Zombie Nemesis, you’re on your own.