Customer Reviews: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
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on August 7, 2012
Hovering half-way between being serious and being funny--and enjoying every minute of its crazy balancing act--this is a great movie. A real movie.

Given the rarity of good films made in Hollywood these days, I had no reasonable expectations, statistically, for a good film here. So I went into the cinema and hoped for the best, but expected nothing.

Imagine my surprise when I found that "Abe Lincoln" is 1. a well-acted period film with great sets and costumes, 2. a wildly paced action special effects feast, 3. an effectively witty self-satirical historical rewrite and 4. a gruesomely graphic horror flick! I don't see this as a perfect film--it's got flaws. But the handful of flaws that bother me, I can ignore, because this is a film made with a joyous spirit, and the overall structure works well. I've seen this five times in the theatre at this point. I haven't seen a film that many times theatrically in over twenty years! I had read the book and enjoyed it, but had no idea what the film version might be like. As has been noted elsewhere, the book and the movie are two completely different things: The book delivers a more intellectual experience, and the film delivers a more emotional experience. Writer Seth Grahame-Smith has tailored his book into something simpler and less grim for the screen. I think the decision to make the film a fun action movie was a smart one. It's a wild ride.

History is transformed into mythic fantasy in this yarn detailing the never-before-told story of Lincoln's lifelong battles with supernatural evil. Indeed, the opening words of narration, "History prefers legends to men," express the awareness that events are altered in retrospection, to suit our thirst for myth, for purity of rights and wrongs. But the "rewrite" that ensues shows us the maddest symbolic extremes. Is this a commentary about America's changing self-image? An indictment of our entertainment culture's increasing obsession with simplistic heroes, loud noises and glorified bloodshed? A condemnation that is strangely exemplary of the problem? Without winking, this film makes many sly jabs at the "typical," common-denominator, American action film.

It's simultaneously silly and profoundly moving--a film so strange that many scratch their heads, but in time, I think, it will come to be regarded as a classic of genre cinema. In this searing mixture of the real and the unreal, we witness scenes of outlandish fantasy as well as scenes of a young nation being shaped through moral and political conflict. A wide spectrum of emotions is expressed. Sweeping vistas, vital romance, epic battles: It might reasonably be said that this is the "Gone with the Wind" of vampire films. There is an ecstasy of absurdity. It's fun because it's just plain crazy, but in an expensive, lavish, eloquent, opulent way.

Yes, like "Sleepy Hollow" before it, this one brings back memories of the Hammer classic horror films, which, though violent, were elegant and refined, with beautifully written dialogue. It's a really refreshing change from the crudity and brutal excesses seen in horror films of recent years. This one goes down smooth.

The humor here is pretty subtle, most of the time. This film suggests to the viewer that one of America's greatest Presidents was actually also a fearsome, axe-swinging, monster-slaughtering badass. The story of how all this came to be is lovingly presented as the most serious thing in the world, despite its patent ridiculousness. This "straight-faced" approach is really the key to the humor, and achieves a smart, sophisticated effect.

The Civil War-era story links the intended secession of the Southern states with the rise to power of vampires in those states; so vampirism becomes a metaphor for slavery and man's general inhumanity to himself. The typical horror film focuses on primal fears, and never on issues of morality; so while largely a horror film, this seeks to turn some basic principles of the horror film sideways. The meddling does not stop there. It is true that the story treats its history elements as "flexible material" to be modified as necessary for storytelling purposes (is this unexpected for a film with a title like "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter"?). But it is also true that the audience needs to be familiar with the American Civil War, Lincoln, Harriet Tubman, and various other historical personages, in order to comprehend the story and get the jokes. Perhaps it's a sad thing, but whimsical fantasies featuring historical figures (like this film, and the first "Bill and Ted" film) are most useful in this day and age for acquainting audiences with these figures in the first place. Inaccurate? Sure. But it's still comprehensible only to literate audiences.

The film is a creative entity--and, like some of my favorite satire-comedies, seeks to go vigorously against the grain of convention, so audience members expecting the normal "action film product" are likely to be confused (and when I watched it in theatres, a good many viewers were certainly confused!). "Abe Lincoln" thinks outside the box and then axe-murders the box. If you happen to be inside the box, well, you are in trouble. But sharp viewers who get the joke are rewarded with a stimulating experience.

While serving up gaggles of vicious monsters, it unfolds an old-school "birth of the hero" story that recalls the tone of earlier Technicolor Hollywood epics and historical biopics. "Abe Lincoln" delivers much, much more than the basic requirements. This is a popcorn film of a higher order.

Many laughs, scares, and thrilling moments. Yeah. I loved it.

--Rodd Matsui
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on October 27, 2012
If you like the Vampire movie the "Priest", then you will Love this movie. Stunning high visual and heavy hitting action. Top (A +) CGI, and stunning cinematography. Beautiful period wardrobe and stunning period sets. A-list acting from all actors. Superior script that works. Don't be put off by the Lincoln idea, the script actually works...and the young man selected to perform Lincoln does a damn good job of it, from start to finish. This movie has some of the most stunning balls-to-wall action I have ever seen in a movie...and gives competition to the Underworld, and the Blade Movies! Remember this movie is produced by A-List Director (Tim Burton), and he does not put out Bulls*** movies! This is an A-List Vampire movie and is one of the best Vampire action movies that I have ever seen in a while. This movie is different and takes you to another place and time. It's made very well I must say. In closing, this is not a movie you would rent. This is a rare kind of movie that is destined to be a classic, so you (WILL) want to buy it on Blue Ray! This is my Opinion. Thank you!
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on August 19, 2012
Director Timur Bekmambetov is a veteran of exaggerated action and genre-splitting fang flicks, having directed Night Watch (2004), Day Watch (2006) and Wanted (2008). In addition to some of those he has produced The Darkest Hour (2011), Apollo 18 (2011) and the possible Wanted 2 (????). He picks weird projects and visually supplements them in unexpected and often impressive (though also often ridiculous) ways. He's a creative guy and, in general, I'm pleased with his work--including his latest: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

Our story begins by weaving motive. Young Abraham witnesses the death of his mother at the hand of a vampire. From that day into adulthood, Abraham (Benjamin Walker in his first major role and looking like a young Liam Neeson) seeks revenge against that vampire, but hates them all.

Honest Abe is trained by Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), who is as un-Yoda-like as it gets complete with rigid rules, a temper and a penchant for exterminating all vampires. One must wonder why. Of course, there's a story there, the explanation of which would spoil the movie. He is backed by his best friend Will Johnson (Anthony Mackie), a freeborn black man who has some unexplained skill for martial arts (in a time when it was generally unknown to the West) and axe-spinning (even though he lacked Sturgess' Jedi tutelage).

Abe marries Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), with whom he shares a life veiled from the truth behind his night life and political ambitions. In fact, this is where knowing some simple history gets fun. You'll grin as you see political campaigns and war tactics steered by anti-vampire stratagem.

Our vampiric antagonist is effectively portrayed by professional villain Rufus Sewell. As Adam, the 5000-year old maker of all vampires, Sewell is cold and enjoyably hatable. He leads the Confederate vampires of the South in their invasion of the North in the Civil War. His personal cadre enjoys the bedazzling company of Vadoma (played by newcomer/model Erin Wasson, who already looked rather vampy before doing this movie). She plays her simple part well and I hope to see more of her in more challenging roles.

The movie ends with a brief present day scene which smacks of Interview with a Vampire's "I'm going to give you the choice that I never had." An endearing nod, but not without a little eye-rolling to accompany my acknowledgement--not that this was the only time in the movie when that happened.

THE SETS: Now, I only noticed this because I always ask myself "now how do I feel about the cinematography and set design"--but I was largely unimpressed with both (excluding some action sequence work, though). Had I not been looking for it, I might not have noticed most of the time. The scenes were still effective and I don't think too many people will wish they got more from this department unless, again like me, they specifically look for it.

To be, or not to be, in 3D: I saw this in 3D, and it wasn't until the second act action scenes that I sensed that this might have been filmed in 3D. There was just something about the first act's movement, zooming and background that felt a bit untidily modified-from-2D-to-3D. As it turns out, I saw the HBO making of special and noticed the same stale, artificial focus and contrast during zooming in 2D. However, once the second act action begins, you see that the action was clearly made (and well made) for 3D. It's just that the 3D felt like a natural improvement for some scenes, but actually obscured trademark scenes like the one-swing-tree-splitting when compared to HBO's (and the TV trailer's) much crisper 2D presentation. One scene really didn't fit in 2D or 3D, and that's the "stampede fight." When you see this, everything is so obscured by choppy focus and lazy-hazy blurred CGI that you wonder if they ran out of budget and then realized "Hey guys, we still need to do the Stampede Fight."
My final decision: I'd vote to see this in 3D.

THE ACTION: After witnessing his tree-splitting training and some impressive axe-spinning flair I'm reminded of Ray Parks' work as the headless horseman (Sleepy Hollow) and Darth Maul (The Phantom Menace). The action starts somewhere in the middle; it's very blood-letty, fast-paced and entertaining, but also filmed very close up such that you see very little. So I was quite entertained while also wishing it was done differently. But during this first act of the movie the events, build-up and consequence were more important than the fights themselves. Whereas in the second act elaborately choreographed and CGI-enhanced scenes spew gore, sever limbs, and add complex acrobatics from a wide angle allowing full realization of intricate marriages between combat choreographers and CGI engineers. The sets were more open, much as were for many of Neo's fights in the 2nd and 3rd Matrix movies, which allowed more freedom in planning grandiose maneuvers with more combatants. There's even a healthy dash of post-impact slo-mo (a la 300 or The Immortals) as caped bodies and weapons corkscrew through the air about trailing cascades of black blood. Very well done indeed. The action shifts gears yet again for the third act (with a more aged Lincoln) and include a Western-style train action sequence and Civil War battle scenes. There's a good deal of unrealistic skill and precision which hemorrhages absurdity this flick, but I found myself not minding a bit despite some playful Oh-come-ons.

THE STORY: This movie succeeded where many failed in utilizing a multi-story-style 3-act model. What do I mean? I mean The Brotherhood of the Wolf model. Each act of The Brotherhood of the Wolf felt like a different movie--it began with a period piece mystery, shifted to a large-scale action-driven phase, and then finished as a somewhat supernatural revenge flick, any one of which could have been its own stand-alone film. Movies that try to do too much (like this) often fail. In Abraham Lincoln we have a plotty origin story, followed by a more typical vampire hunter choreography-driven flick, and ended with an aged Abe and a politico-military historical piece where period mattered and fights took place in less martial arts-friendly venues. Again, any one of these parts could have been the vampire-gnawed blood and guts of a whole separate movie.

While on paper, the concept must sound like it skirts lunacy, this exercise in absurd fantasy-horror-war-history hybridization comes off as a great summer action flick. You'll be surprised at how seriously you'll take it--as if hypnotized by some True Blood glamour. So I say see it. Be glamoured and dazzled. Enjoy.
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on October 31, 2012
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter had really, really bad reviews but I still wanted to see it and I am glad I did. This was not a film that was ever meant to be taken seriously and how could you when Abraham Lincoln and the word 'vampire' appear together in the title?! Anyway, it turned out to be hugely enjoyable and great fun. Fast paced, well acted, great action and special effects and with some lovely moments too. It works especially well because it is played absolutely straight-faced but is obviously tongue in cheek!! However, it is best viewed in 2D.

What makes it even more delicious is that there are now some totally baffled Americans out there who think it really is 'the true story of America's 16th president'!!!

I am wheedling to get it as an xmas prezzie!!
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I didn't know what to expect from such a movie. When I grew up we were taught about Abraham Lincoln in such a way as to believe he was the epitome of the most honest and strong leader we ever had in some of the most difficult times our country has ever endured. The twist in this movie still portrays Abe in a similar light but also one in which he is one of the few humans who knows about vampires and one of the even fewer who is a vampire hunter/slayer.

The twist in the civil war is that it is not just a battle to free the slaves but to free them from the vampires who rule the south. If the South wins we become a nation ruled by vampires and if the North wins we become a nation ruled by humans. The special effects are good and the acting is not bad. My wife is reading the book and she told me that the movie moves at the speed of light when compared to the book and it breezes over a lot of the issues. The action sequences just took over the storyline and the movie to make it as exciting as possible.

They have rewritten history to make an entertaining movie. We both enjoyed the movie and we give it 4 stars.
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on October 26, 2012
I really enjoyed this movie! The 3D is great just like many other reviewers have said, it adds alot to the movie. The fight scenes were fantastic and I think that is where the 3D worked the best, it was also cool watching the little pieces of dust fly in 3D. I have never read the book and have never even heard of it before until reading the reviews on here. I thought the story line of the movie was really good though. The actor that plays Abraham looks alot like him in my opinion, so that really added alot to the movie. There were a few nice twists in the story that keeps everything entertaining. I think it is definitely worth checking out especially in 3D, and if you do get to see it in 3D, check out the vamps eyes!
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on November 18, 2012
I would have never watched the movie if it weren't for my friends forcing me to watch it. The title sounds silly, so most people's reaction to this movie before they see it is "WTF", then they check the reviews, and say "NEXT". Thing is, this movie has really bad reviews primarily because the only ones that even knew the movie existed were the ones who read the book. My best tip for those who never read the book is WATCH THE MOVIE, SCREW THE REVIEWS!!!
My favorite part is at the very end when they go into modern day today, the person that appears there seems a little bit like a certain political figure to me. My friends and I ended up having an hour long conversation trying to pin point that out, it was cool.
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on October 24, 2012
Excellent. When the book swept me off my feet with its gripping tale of alternate history and "is it real?" fiction, I had high hopes for the movie.

I did not get the chance to see it in theaters, regrettably. Needless to say, I was eagerly anticipating it to be released on video, especially since I have a 3D HDTV. As with all 3D movies, I'm always skeptical if the 3D will be believable or just a cheap "add-on." Also, I'm always weary of purchasing a movie without watching it first, for fear of disappointment. So, I was going out on a wide limb to buy this one.

Being only a fan of the book, I set the bar very high, and the producers took that bar and slammed it through the ceiling with style. Was it "exactly" like the book? No. Was that disappointing? No. Frankly, I was not sure how the makers would be able to fit all of the content into a movie that was shy of the 120 minute mark.

The result was an outstanding success. The reviews of this movie are up and down, for both fans of the book and non-readers alike. This made me uneasy to "waste my time" with it. Bottom line, be your own critic. If you read the book, and loved it as I did, you are doing yourself a disservice by not watching the movie adaptation.

The actors were excellent. The plot was true to the book. The locales and costumes were superb. The action was spot-on. The visual effects were just right. The 3D was amazing: the movie is meant to be enjoyed in 3D. Dust particles float before your eyes. Splinters fly past the screen. Depth adds so much to the scenery and backdrops. The story is great. The use of 3D splendid. Do yourself a favor and at least rent this one. You will not be disappointed.
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on October 31, 2012
I can tell you for sure that this movie is certainly better than Abraham Lincoln vs. the Zombies. This movies special effects and movie quality are comparable to Sherlock Holmes. This movie also has a small amount of scenes that drag. Overall, it is very entertaining and it was great to see the historical figure in a would be vampire action film. It's worth the viewing and the purchase. This movie has some great action scenes, especially the ones where Abe uses that famous cherry tree ax to take out vampires.

If you're looking to see a movie that is really very well written and keeps you engrossed from start to finish, definitely get this movie. Also, I did not purchase the HD version but regular Amazon instant video and the movie is still amazing!

Final thoughts, this is really just a great movie with great actors. A must see for honest Abe fans!
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on May 6, 2014
Kudos to screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith for such a wonderfully imaginative concept, breathing new life into the vampire horror subgenre as well as a very enjoyable alternate-reality take on 19th century American history and hats off to Tim Burton for orchestrating such a visually riveting flick featuring some of the most exciting action sequences ever captured on film.

Unfortunately, so many excellent scenes are separated by lingering a bit too long on some fairly bland character development. Whereas Rufus Sewell makes an absolutely phenomenal lead vampire, Benjamin Walker makes an equally underwhelming Abraham Lincoln and yet he stands head & shoulders (figuratively and literally) above the remainder of an even more hum-drum cast possessing almost zero chemistry.

Nevertheless, I absolutely love a modern, Hollywood blockbuster which treats the highest office in the land with a bit more dignity than most media outlets these days while simultaneously allowing movie lovers an opportunity to witness arguably the most legendary figure to have held said office in a realm of grim fantasy where the good guys still win.

"AL:VH" is fairly violent but not over the top gory with the occasional swear word but no nudity (brief sex scene) and overall a very enjoyable horror/action flick (in no way comedic) absolutely worth a rental. :o)
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