[Marxism] Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon May 20 12:41:01 MDT 2013

While this does not quite merit a review, I found it much more 
interesting and much more of a blow against the Slavocracy than "Django" 
and "Lincoln" put together. I saw it on HBO last night and it is also 
available from Netflix.

It got 65% rotten on Rotten Tomatoes, a function no doubt of director 
Timur Bekmambetov not being on Hollywood's A-List's. It did have Tim 
Burton's imprimatur as producer but I doubt that this made up for Timur 
Bekmambetov's brazen bad taste.

Here's a review I am sympathetic to. The only thing it lacks is a clear 
statement that the vampires were the shock troops of the South, a 
perfect metaphor for the chattel slavery system:


Friday, Jun 22, 2012 10:00 AM EDT
A great killer Lincoln

Dazzling design and awesome action scenes can't conceal the joyous 
idiocy of "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter"

By Andrew O'Hehir

If your problem with Quentin Tarantino’s alternate-history World War II 
action flick “Inglourious Basterds” was that it lacked enough high 
concept, then “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” is for you. There’s 
definitely some empty-calories, summer-movie fun to be found in this 
ludicrous genre mashup, most of it courtesy of maniacal Russian director 
Timur Bekmambetov, who stages hilarious, imaginative, almost free-form 
action sequences like nobody in the business. There’s a scene in this 
movie that involves an ax fight between the young Mr. Lincoln and a 
slave-trading vampire mastermind, set amid a stampeding herd of horses, 
who are alternately used as conveyances, obstacles and weapons. In its 
own idiotic and limited way, it’s a work of genius, and you could almost 
say that about the movie as a whole.

Bekmambetov marshals a first-rate production design team for this screen 
adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s bestseller (scripted by the author), 
and the opening shot of this movie is spectacular: We see the 
contemporary skyline of Washington, and then watch as all the modern 
buildings and infrastructure gradually melt away, taking us back to the 
marshy city of our 16th president, with the White House surrounded by 
open fields and stone row-houses, and the Washington Monument only half 
completed. Lincoln’s young life in the Indiana wilderness and the 
frontier capital of Springfield, Ill., is also captured in impressive 
detail. One can only wish that the story and characters seemed either 
a.) halfway convincing in the context of 19th-century America, or b.) 
worth the time and effort it takes to watch it, let alone the immense 
expense and hard work of making it.

In Grahame-Smith’s earlier hit novel, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” 
(which has also been rendered into a film, to appear later this year), 
he simply interpolated new material and themes — presumably never 
contemplated by Jane Austen — into a public-domain literary work. 
There’s some of that in the book “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” but 
the whole thing is way more elaborate, involving a secret Lincoln 
journal (entirely fictional, with a few tidbits from his known works) 
and a reworking of Civil War history in which the slave-owning caste of 
the antebellum South becomes a secret conspiracy of undead bloodsuckers. 
That’s sort of halfway clever, as long as you don’t think about it too 
much, but in the movie version Bekmambetov and Grahame-Smith have 
jettisoned the elaborate back story and modern-day framing device in 
favor of nonstop splatter and silliness, which exposes how thin this 
idea really is.

Looking for all the world like a digitally engineered younger version of 
Liam Neeson, Benjamin Walker gives a curiously leaden performance as the 
ax-wielding hero Lincoln, although he’s ably supported by snaky-looking 
English actor Dominic Cooper, as a repentant vampire who has turned 
against his own kind. (Has anyone written a doctoral dissertation about 
that archetype yet?) But it’s not Bekmambetov’s splendiferous and 
camped-up action scenes, culminating in a vampires-on-a-train climax 
that would dazzle Sam Peckinpah, that are the problem here. It’s the 
fact that adding a bunch of jokey, gory vampire battles to the most 
violent and dramatic period of American history is not merely gilding 
the lily, but is an atrocious insult to the memory of those who lived 
and died then, and to the historical resonance of those events, which 
emphatically continues to this day.

It’s actually not OK, in this case, to say smirkingly that history is 
boring and would be way cooler if it had more sexy vampire chicks and 
stuff blowing up. The struggle against slavery — a practice that had 
poisoned our country, root and branch, from its inception — and the 
worst war in American history and the life and death of our greatest and 
weirdest president have enough action and suspense for 20 movies. Sure, 
this movie is meant as camp from beginning to end, and isn’t trying to 
replace real history. (One of its last lines of dialogue is: “Abraham! 
Hurry up or we’ll miss the play!”) Which ought to mean that I’ll forget 
how much it pissed me off really quickly, and only remember the 

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