Monday, June 25, 2012

Movie Review: Abraham Lincoln - Vampire Hunter

When I first heard about this book I laughed. Much the same way I did when I heard about the movie "Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter". Having seen the latter movie I was expecting something similar from the book so I skipped it. However, when preparing for a road trip I picked up some legal audio books. I specify legal to separate it from damn near everything else in my collection up to that point. "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" was really quite reasonably priced after buying a copy of the 7th Harry Potter book on CD. Surprisingly enough, I liked it. [see?]

It was the story of Lincoln's life with vampires added. Early on his mother, who really died of milk sickness (drinking milk from a cow that ate a toxic plant), was supposedly killed by vampires. And much of his traveling was due to vampire hunting justified with business reasons. It's actually a pretty good companion piece for any Lincoln biography since it makes you wonder how much is true.

The movie is different. It's a much greater departure from the book than the book is from history. But, holy shit, is it a good action movie. It's MUCH more like what I expected from the book. Early on it sticks to the book with some significant cuts. As it goes on the vampire fighting is dramatic, but abbreviated. The need for Lincoln to hunt vampires instead of the vampire friend who recruited him is added. As are a few friends. The Civil War action is radically altered. And the end is changed.

I liked the movie, but there were some things that I missed. The movie touches on how Stephen Douglas courted Mary Todd (true), but Douglas vanishes from the movie while the book goes on a good deal more about the ongoing rivalry between the two including Douglas turning from his initial anti-slavery leanings. The movie includes a bit about how slaves were being fed to vampires, but loses much of how the vampires had set them up as a regular food source and the allegory of vampires as slave owners. The book was biographical literature while the movie is action-packed-barely-historical-fiction. Also, why was Alan Tudyk as Stephen Douglas left off the credits while Harriet Tubman made it in despite the fact that nothing in the movie indicated who she was?

To do the book service you need to make a one season TV series out of it. Possibly the most action ever seen on a PBS series. Or HBO with a companion series about what's real and what's not. The book and this movie are two very different creatures.

I want to spend a minute on Timur Bekmambetov, the director. Have you seen "Night Watch" or "Day Watch"? If not you want to at least see "Night Watch". It's a Russian vampire movie. Proper vampires. No glitter or anything. OK, they're not exactly Dracula, but they're realistic and interesting. And Timur has some interesting visual decisions, including how he did the English subtitles. Seriously, I want there to be an award for subtitling just so he can get it. And what he does with the action scenes in "Abraham Lincoln:  Vampire Hunter" is awesome. Not just the high contrast or the way the camera speed changes radically to show details of the action. There's a scene where Lincoln is chasing the vampire who killed his mother through a massive horse stampede that is like nothing you've ever seen. Very much a "holy shit, this is awesome!" moment. This movie sets him up as the go to guy for vampires.

The next question is whether I'll get this on DVD. I'm pretty sure I will for the action, but I'll stick with the book for the story.

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