“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” (A Nickell-odeon Review)
June 29, 2012
Is nothing sacred? Ask that of the novelist (Seth Grahame-Smith) and the subsequent moviemakers behind Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. How else does one explain their cra$$ exploitation of the sixteenth president, who was martyred for emancipating the slaves and saving the Union at the cost of a bloody war? Bloody? Humor here, with fake blood by the barrelful. Ha, ha!
As a vampirologist—one who seriously studies the history, lore, and lure of the vampire myth (see my Tracking the Man-Beasts, 2011, pp. 121–146)—I can appreciate vampire folklore (shared tales), fakelore (literary creations), and even jokelore. However, as a longtime defender of Lincoln’s legacy (from various forgers and other scoundrels), I am not amused by Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Of course no one takes the movie seriously, but that’s the point: it trivializes a great period in American history.
Its plot follows the absurdity of the title. Lincoln’s mission is to kill the monster that took his mother. Famously known as “the Railsplitter,” he uses his trademark axe, which he twirls in martial-arts fashion, lopping off the bloodsuckers’ heads. It is not an ordinary axe, but one whose blade is edged with silver. Yet this vampire motif does not derive from the pre-Civil War era, nor even from Bram Stoker’s 1897 Dracula (which contributed much to the vampire in popular culture). Instead, the use of silver—originally in the form of a silver bullet—came from novelists creating fakelore about werewolves.
Yet the movie takes this displaced, non-vampire motif to the Nth degree. In the run-up to Gettysburg, to counter the vampire-infiltrated Confederate army, Lincoln launches a quest for silver that rivals the scrap-metal drives of World War II. Indeed, those no doubt inspired the movie’s scenes of the collecting and (in great factories) melting of silverware, coins, etc., to produce silver weapons, including bayonets and ammo—not only bullets, but even silver cannonballs!! Ha, ha!
Lincoln also has a vampire-slaying kit. Many people believe such kits are authentic historical artifacts, and they are today occasionally sold by auction houses and displayed in Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museums. Actually, they are notoriously faked. (Typically they consist of an assortment of real antique items displayed in a genuine antique box that has been repartitioned and relined, the original of the current wave of kits reportedly dating from just 1972.) Lincoln’s kit—which contains standard items, like wooden stakes—is much larger than the typical box. It is the size of a trunk because it must hold Lincoln’s axe. Wink, wink. Ha, ha!
But why fault the film for its perversion of vampire mythology? That pales to insignificance compared to what it does with American history. Some critics put such content concerns aside and rate the movie at, say, three stars, purely for its entertainment value (including some great special effects). Call me old-fashioned, but I insist on a movie being something more than an example of what not to do.
Rating: Half a wooden nickel (out of four)
#1 gray1 on Sunday July 01, 2012 at 7:32am
Joe’s review has probably doubled the number of people who will ever be aware of this movie. Aside from blatent abuse of an icon which might even be deemed criminal by some, however, one has to wonder about the demonizaton (in this case vampirization) of Southerners here. I predict an increasing media trend in this direction as we approach November and the coming of the now rituralized though now quite predictable painting of the Red (blood?) States versus Blue (“heavenly?) States.
Obviously the otherwise misguided use silver represents all the money which will be necessary to fend of those horrible, bloodsucking fiends of the South. The racial implication in using Lincoln in this battle is equally transparent. I’ll leave the meaning of the silver gilded ax symbol for any reader’s individual interpretation.
Good work exposing these particular demons, Mr. Nickell.
#2 David Barker (Guest) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 at 10:18am
Really, Joe? You just sound like a miserable old curmudgeon. Not pretty.
#3 Kazim (Guest) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 at 1:02pm
I like the fact that this movie exists, because it gives me a useful response to the question “Did a historical Jesus exist?”
My answer is: “There may have been a historical person named Jesus, but if there was, his life bore about as much resemblance to the character portrayed in the Bible as Abraham Lincoln’s life resembled that of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.”
And for the record, I found the movie silly but entertaining, which matched my expectations. If a lot of people were to watch ALVH and come away with the impression that they had just seen accurate history, there might be a problem. But I’m sure you’ll agree with me that nobody in the world is going to do that. I’m okay with stories that are 100% fantasy (i.e., Star Wars; Game of Thrones) so I don’t see why I should be upset that a story might take some true events and use them as a staging ground for something that is 85% fantasy.
#4 Kazim (Guest) on Tuesday July 03, 2012 at 1:08pm
Another analogy: A lot of fictional movies use existing pop culture figures to establish that they are grounded in the real world. David Letterman, Jay Leno, Jon Stewart, and Bill O’Reilly have appeared on the news in a movie to comment on the fictional and often fantastic events that are occurring. Sometimes the current president even appears, either in a guest cameo, or more commonly played by an impersonator or in stock footage. The comic book and movie “Watchmen” take place in an alternative 1985, and uses real historic figures like Richard Nixon to lend an air of authenticity to their not-at-all believable superhero story.
Surely all these examples don’t outrage you. Why should older characters from American history be off limits?
#5 Dorion on Wednesday July 04, 2012 at 9:15pm
It’s also just a poor movie. I blame the direction.
#6 Daniel (Guest) on Thursday July 05, 2012 at 1:38am
You ask “is nothing sacred” talk about hypocrisy. Joe, you mock Yahweh, your God, who made you, who said, “Don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t murder, don’t covet, love your neighbor as yourself, love the lord your God with all your heart, do to others as you would have them do to you” and many other good laws, which you treat as dirt. How can you be so blind, and who are you to be the declarer of sacredness? Are you anything like God, one who is perfect in knowledge who controls all things? You don’t have his perfect anger or love, yet you act as if you you can perfectly take his place. You’re not perfect at all.
You’re so blind and deluded that you didn’t even test your cultic mindset of seeing whether or not the scientific method was the only way to know truth.
I hope you look at my last four comments at
#7 Daniel (Guest) on Thursday July 05, 2012 at 1:42am
And Joe, why are you defending a dead president who attacked printing presses and prevented freedom of speech and violated the “sacred” Constitution and Declaration of Independance by preventing the South from staying seceded as was their right? Why are you happy to endorse shoving the dogma of another nation down that of another’s throat, even to the point of mass murder? Apparently then the 175,000,000 killed by communist atheists using the shield of communism, progress, evolving, racial purity (Hitler), and equality must be nothing to you to. Does the mass murder of babies not even born yet without even using anaesthesia bother you either, or are you a psychopath?
#8 Chrissy (Guest) on Friday July 06, 2012 at 9:43am
First, there is a difference between an Athiest killing people and someone killing BECAUSE of Atheism. Second, there are far more Christian murderers in prison than any other religion. Lastly, Hitler was a Christian and had the support of many Christians, both leaders and parishioners.