The first thing I said to a colleague of mine when we walked out of the press screening for 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter' was, "That was the best bad movie I've ever seen." I'm under no delusion that a movie about our revered 16th president fighting vampires is a "good" movie in the traditional sense. What I am advocating though, is that it's pretty damn fun to watch.
There are times where film broadens our horizons and brightens our understanding about the world around us. This isn't one of those times. 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter' isn't afraid to take on its outwardly corny premise with as much gusto as one can muster when we're dealing with this sort of subject. A movie like this requires that the filmmakers go over the top, and boy do director Timur Bekmambetov and writer Seth Grahame-Smith (who also penned the novel) go way over the top.
Here is a movie that rewrites history in such a way that it links Lincoln's fabled time as president directly to vampires. A movie that has no qualms with equating the origins of the Civil War and slavery directly with the myth of blood-sucking demons. It's a movie that isn't afraid to embrace the absurd and that's what makes it so amusing.
Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) was always headstrong, even as a child. In this tale Lincoln sees his young friend, who happens to be black, being whipped by an angry man. Lincoln steps in and ends up getting hurt as well. Then Lincoln's dad finally breaks up the whipping causing him to fall into disfavor with a powerful local businessman who also happens to be a vampire. Not soon after that, Lincoln witnesses a vampire steal into his mother's room and bite her. His mother dies, Lincoln seeks revenge.
During his course for revenge he runs across a man named Henry (Dominic Cooper) who knows an awful lot about vampires. Henry teaches Lincoln the art of hunting the undead in a short, hilarious montage where we witness Lincoln cut down a tree in a single blow. See, it's a completely ridiculous story and preposterous premise, but the movie doesn't care. It's fully committed to seeing it through, and it goes all out for the cause.
The key here is the movie's seriousness about the subject that Lincoln was indeed a vampire hunter. We get thoughtful commentary from Lincoln himself, through voiceovers, as he describes his time being a hunter and how it formed the man he became. Oftentimes we criticize movies for taking themselves far too seriously, however, in this case it's exactly what's called for. If these actors were playing every scene like they were about to laugh then the movie loses much of its all-in bet on a serious tone.
What caught me by surprise was how invested I became in these revisionist historical characters. Watching Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) fall in love with this lanky, awkward guy was sort of endearing in a way. Sure it was followed by Lincoln and a vampire hopping from horseback to horseback during an extended CGI action sequence where, at one point, a horse is used as a hurled projectile, but in the moment the movie does a great job at establishing their romance.
Sure Bekmambetov's slow-mo action scenes are fully of unnecessary whooshing 'Matrix' sounds as characters flip end over end, and of course the entire foundation of the film is patently absurd. Nevertheless, there's something joyful about this movie. Something that makes me smile and giggle at the way it embraces itself, warts and all. It's exciting and amusing, what else can you ask from a movie called 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter'?
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
The 2D version of the movie comes from Fox and is packaged in a Blu-ray/DVD/UltraViolet Digital Copy Combo Pack. The discs are packaged in a standard keepcase with a slipcover. The disc is 50GBs. The back of the case labels this as a Region A release.
Fox has provided the movie with a 1080p presentation that will most certainly impress anyone who watches it on your TV. Bekmambetov along with the help of his cinematographer, Caleb Deschanel, has shot a slick and detailed movie from start to finish. Like many HD transfers, this one betrays some of the sillier special effects and noticeably bad makeup, but the rest of the movie looks rather stunning.
Even with the movie bathed in slight sepia-tone colors still pop. As you may have guess red is a dominating color here as blood splatters and runs down necks, covers surfaces, and flies through the air is slow motion. The crimson liquid absolutely pops on screen and so does the much blacker blood of the vampires for that matter. Clothing is covered in noticeable texture. Hair strands are distinctly separate from one another in close-ups.
There are some times where black levels tend to crush detail ever so slightly, with Bekmambetov's purposefully inserted fog and dust mucking up the picture even more. It's true that some of the special effects are called to more attention that the filmmakers would like when the high-def microscope is applied, yet the movie comes out looking really good.
Fox's DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track is the jewel of this release. Like or hate the movie, the fact is that this is one bombastic mix. Here we're treated to a demo-quality release that leaves nothing on the table. Everything you'd want from thundering bass to strongly involved surround channels, this mix has got it.
Panning effects are seamless in their transition. As Lincoln's axe swings, slow-mo, from one side of the frame to the other, the whoosh follows right along with it. Directionality works perfectly here, especially in the movie's fight scenes. Vampires attack from every direction with the side speakers picking up their guttural growls and hisses before they strike. The surrounds seem to always be engaged, picking up the yells of men running across a battlefield and the cheers of people after they hear Lincoln's speech.
Up front the story is the same. Dialogue has a heft to it that is admirable indeed. Lincoln's voice-overs command attention as they're clearly relayed. The sub-woofer houses the movie's stout LFE. Trains crashing, bridges collapsing, cannons exploding, whatever is happening you better believe that these low-end sonics are going to rattle your room. This mix is every bit as enjoyable as the movie is.
'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter' is a raucously fun ride through revisionist history. It's a movie that completely owns its illogical nature and uses it to its advantage. It's exciting, decently constructed, and entertaining. What else could you ask from a movie about a past president slicing up mythical undead creatures? With its great video and demo audio, not to mention it's extensive making-of extras, this one comes strongly recommended to anyone looking for a fun time during this Halloween season.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.