At first sight, previews for “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” spurred the only thought that could overshadow the blatant absurdity of its title: “Do we really need more vampire movies?” The answer to that question, of course, is no. Today’s audience is in no way deprived of vampire material; from “Twilight” to “True Blood” to “Dark Shadows,” vampires are not only popular, but they seem to be getting more attention than any other mythical creature, at least in my lifetime. So, why another vampire movie? Why now? And most importantly, why Abraham Lincoln? Interestingly enough, this film, which originally seemed to scream redundancy and hilarity, succeeds in not only separating itself from much of today’s vampire rage but also in presenting imagery and themes that are cinematically and socially timely.
The film opens with the voice of Abraham Lincoln (an uncannily casted Benjamin Walker) reading from a journal entry as the camera soars over a picturesque Washington, D.C. — its first of many establishing shots that perfectly merge the aesthetic of a Philippoteaux painting and the dimension of a pop-up picture book (through its use of 3D). 3D technology is used in a multiplicity of ways throughout the film — from the classic surprise thrust of a weapon or a splatter of blood into the face of the audience, to a subtle, yet beautiful, portrayal of floating dust particles in an old alleyway or gun closet — that gives the film an antiquated, almost mystical feel. Its incorporation of effects such as 3D, fast and slow motion and “Matrix”-like combat and stunts make the film a fun, captivating and thrilling watch.
Narratively, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” offers a “complete” review of Lincoln’s life through an exploration of the entries found in his private journal. Along with exposing the intricacies behind his journeys to presidential power and marital happiness, the journal also reveals Lincoln’s confidential pastime — working as a vampire assassin in hopes of taking revenge for a lost loved one. Through the course of the film, his development as a vampire hunter and rise in political power build side by side and eventually merge. Among countless other details, the correlation between the 3D projection of a whip with similar 3D projections of vampire weaponry, along with the incorporation of vampires as Southern soldiers, establish a strong parallel between Lincoln’s war against vampires and his fight against racial inequality.
The congruity between Lincoln’s pursuit of vampires and his persistence in the Civil War succeeds in removing this film, at least to a certain degree, from the rest of today’s vampire material. Rather than being the single, central concentration of the film’s themes or storyline, vampires are incorporated as an extra dimension to which Lincoln expresses his dedication to the fight for human freedom — not only as a president sending troops to the Civil War, but as a man who is willing to risk his own life in the most dreadful battles for the good of humanity. So, while we are currently in no dire need of another vampire flick, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” is timely in a different manner. With the constant strife present in current-day politics and elections looming in the near future, it was beyond refreshing to watch a political leader with the tools, heart and drive to fight for what is right. Rather than a simple vampire movie, this film is the story of the quintessential American president: a great man who strives to save a country on the brink of destruction because he is willing to fight unflaggingly for justice and equality.