You know a movie is going to be a disappointment when one of the trailers is for some bullshit animated film starring a Russian Santa Claus and an Easter Bunny that looks like he’s strung out on heroin.
Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter was a pretty awesome book, but I saw the movie tonight and have some news, most of it terrible.
The movie sucks, not only for its absurdly over the top action scenes, but also from massive deviations from the novel.
Unfortunately for me, the movie proved that my system to predict if a movie will suck or not continues to hold true. Behold!
For those of you who haven’t been to a movie in the theater with me yet, I have a very trusted and accurate system for judging if the film will be good or not. I follow the previews before the film. I award one point for a good trailer. I deduct one point for a trailer for a movie that I wouldn’t want to see, or runs counter to the movie’s genre. For example, if there was a romantic comedy trailer right before an action film, I’d give the movie a -1, even if the romantic comedy trailer seemed good.
This is what we had:
- Savages – I liked this trailer before Prometheus and I still liked it. I’m giving this movie a plus for two reasons: polyamorous relationship meets the movie Taken. Does that add up to four reasons? Whatever, +1.
- Rise of the Guardians – What the hell. I paid to see an R-rated movie about killing vampires. Why is there a kid’s animated film trailer in my R-rated movie about killing vampires? This was such a mismatch and a stupid film I should have done two things immediately: demanded a refund and amended my prediction system to give more than a single negative point for bad trailers. -1.
- End of Watch – normally I don’t like cop movies, and this seemed like an amped-up, Mexican cartel version of Training Day, but after Rise of the Guardians I was desperate for something good. +1.
- House at the End of the Street – not this shit again. I saw this preview during Prometheus and thought it was bad then. Why is there a horror film trailer in my vampire-killing action film? Because my vampire-killing action film was about to suck. -1
Total score: 0
Warning! There are spoilers beyond this point
Okay, let’s get a few things out of the way about the execution of the movie. It wasn’t so terrible all the time as to doom the movie on its own. There are some absurd moments in the movie — or in the case of the train — entire absurd sections. I really disliked some of the vampire kills, especially the deaths of the two major evil vampires near the end of the movie. Abe winds a silver watch around his fist and kills the most powerful vampire in America with a single punch to the stomach. Holy shit, really? Houdini was tougher than this vampire. Mary Todd Lincoln shoots the other main vampire in the forehead with a silver bullet, but not before putting in the (seemingly) silver toy sword from the Lincoln’s son who was killed by vampires. Not only was it cheesy, but it is an example of my greatest criticism of the film:
It was entirely different from the novel.
If you liked the book, you won’t have much to identify with in the film. Very few parts are the same: Abe’s mother dies due to a vampire, and a vampire named Henry helps Abe kill vampires. Lincoln goes to war to sever the use of slaves to feed the vampires in America, and he uses an axe to kill some vampires personally. However, that’s about all that’s the same. Here are some notable changes, in no particular order:
- The meeting between Henry and Lincoln is different. In the movie, they meet in a bar when Lincoln drunkenly plots to kill the vampire responsible for draining Abe’s mom. Lincoln didn’t know exactly what or who killed his mother until he met Henry, who saves him from a vampire.
- There are no major, central villains in the book. “Adam” plays the leader of the vampires in the movie. The storyline didn’t need a villain personified at all, as the vampires themselves and their use of slavery to secure food should have been sinister enough.
- In the movie, vampires aren’t allowed to kill each other (wtf?).
- As a child, Abraham sees his black friend being beaten by one of Jack Barts’s workers. Abraham grabs a hatchet and intervenes, triggering a beating by Barts’s worker and then intervention from Lincoln’s father. Jack Barts punishes Abe’s family by later killing Lincoln’s mother. None of this happened in the book.
- The movie leverages Lincoln’s relationship with his childhood friend to explain the war against the South. The book states that he went to war and freed the slaves to stem the flow of food to the vampires. He did so calculatingly, like the real Lincoln’s use of the Emancipation Proclamation.
- Edgar Allen Poe is one of Lincoln’s friends in the book, and later is murdered by a vampire. None of this makes the movie.
- Lincoln’s cohorts are totally different in the book. He recruits them to help kill the many, many vampires he encounters. They die fighting vampires.
- The link between Lincoln and Will Johnson is completely made up for the movie.
I can’t believe that Seth Grahame-Smith, who wrote the book and the screenplay, decided to completely re-write his own story in such a fundamental way. It’s as if he decided every interesting play on actual historical events was boring, and instead he wanted an implausible, emotional action-romp with over-emphasized, horribly unbelievable special effects. There’s a horse stampede scene (also not in the book, BTW) wherein the characters and horses looked like they were done in Claymation.
I was afraid that bringing Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter to the big screen would foul it up, and unfortunately I was right. I think if someone hadn’t read the book they may enjoy the film. Perhaps roll an eye here and there (the train scene is really terrible) but otherwise like it. For me and The Patented DrFaulken Movie Prediction System™, the movie was a grave disappointment.