As a fresh serving of cheesy-action was dolloped into our cinemas, I thought I’d pop down to my local picture factory and take a gander at Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter.
Adapted from novel to script by Seth Grahame-Smith, the story begins with a childhood Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) seeing his mother brutally murdered by local vampire, Jack Barts (Marton Csokas). Once grown up, Lincoln sets about trying to kill Barts and gets some crazy axe wielding lessons from the mysterious Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper).
Sturgess also teaches Lincoln about a secret community of vampires living among the, led by the evil-but-cool ‘Adam’ (Rufus Sedwell). While trying to defeat this clandestine society, we’re guided through a series of gaping plot holes and implausible montages as Lincoln haphazardly falls into politics and also manages to abolish slavery in the process.
As if the confederate side didn’t seem bad enough already, we learn that plantation owner and suave king of the vampires, ‘Adam’, is secretly harvesting slaves for food! Yes, forget about Lincoln marrying the daughter of a plantation owner, or his mention in 1858 that whites are superior to blacks, the line between good and bad could only be more clear if all the confederates were twiddling fake moustaches. They’re shown to be nothing less than soulless monsters while Lincoln is painted as a bastion of equality, struggling to end the injustice of slave farming once and for all.
I was struck by what can only be described as a truly a fascinating interpretation of the whole ‘Lincoln myth’: the image of a man spurned on by a passion for racial harmony. The Lincoln that holds a place in America’s heart is, after all, a very different figure from the facts. As surviving letters of the time show, the presidents main priority during the civil war wasn’t really abolishing slavery. The ambiguity around some of his decisions (like refusing to allow black soldiers into the army in 1862) has caused a lot of historical debate. But he’s recast here as the ultimate axe wielding liberator, secretly destroying another evil without most people even knowing about it. Through filling in the gaps with make-believe, the whole plot is like a response to Lincoln’s inconsistency, an attempt to make him seem more moral than the standard ‘great emancipator’ myth ever did.
As well as this, the film really went to town with the idea that the civil war was the end of America’s involvement in colonialism. In the final scenes, everyone celebrates as the racists are killed and the slaves are freed. We’re left with the impression that America is one big step closer to becoming a utopia for all (human) races.
Lincoln tells us he heard the racist vampires emigrated to ‘South America or‘ but they will never come back to America because the country now belongs to ‘free men’. And he’s right- the racist vampires did travel… and they exploited labour from Asia, South America and the as well. But what forgets is that the blood money flowed, and continues to flow, right back to Washington.
Still, the fight scenes were fantastically entertaining. Full marks!