Studio: 20th Century Fox
Disc/Transfer Information: Region “A” (US/Canada); 1080p High-Definition 2.39:1 Widescreen
Video Codec: AVC MPEG-4
Tested Audio Track: English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (Tested in 5.1 configuration)
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Starring Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Anthony Mackie, Rufus Sewell, Dominic Cooper, Robin McLeavy, Martin Csokas
I was intrigued by this film the moment I caught rumor of it via teaser trailers and social hubbub amidst the motion picture review media circles I travel in – at first, the concept seemed ludicrous and downright stupid…taking one of the founding fathers of the U.S. and making him into a fictitious Van Helsing-style vampire slayer complete with over-the-top CGI setpieces and political license that would make even Roland Emmerich’s The Patriot seem more accurate in spots. You know something? This film was beyond fun – and while I still don’t know if it’s something worth actually buying full-price for a collection, the experience was a check-your-brain-at-the-door gore fest that fused actual historical accuracies during Lincoln’s reign as president and a backstory straight from the graphic novel hall of fame, dripping with lightning-quick editing, nail-biting fight sequences and effective if somewhat goofy at times CGI work. It was a very interesting concept that while upon first consideration may seem a bit off-putting and perhaps even a little disrespectful towards the Lincoln legacy in U.S. history, but eventually turns into a fun romp for an hour and 40 minutes or so…and it was perfect for a Halloween season rental.
What struck me over the head first and foremost was the likeness to Lincoln – young and old – the lead role exhibited. …the sequences that depict the ex-president in his Washington years in the under-construction White House and capitol building really made you feel like you were looking at Lincoln during that time period…the resemblance was beyond uncanny. I was glad they got this aspect right because if they didn’t, it definitely could have been a mess (take, for example, the disastrous casting of Armand Asante as John Gotti in HBO’s own film about the gangster). Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is split into two camps – the first half deals with Lincoln in his youth, mixing accurate historical references to his upbringing and home life with a horror backstory that explains his teachings as a vampire slayer by none other than the dude who played Howard Stark in Captain America. That’s right. The second half depicts the legendary man during his time as President of the United States, when he freed slaves and delivered his famous Gettysburg Address – but who is also still in the fight against the bloodsuckers of the night. Throughout, we get a voiceover of what is supposed to be Lincoln explaining certain elements of the story as it progresses, which I felt was effective (and I suppose wouldn’t be so if this was a story dealing with George W. Bush donning assless chaps and fighting vamps), with an opening sequence that goes far back into history to suggest Lincoln’s upbringing as a young boy. The somewhat goofy, however, premise to the backstory attempts to offer the possibility that actual vampires are living amongst the humans of this era when the U.S. was trying to develop itself as a nation, and are actually posing as citizens and in certain offices. When the young Abe witnesses an attack by a vamp on a member of his own family, he swears revenge, growing up to be “trained” by a man who saves his life during a failed attempt to get to one of the lead vamps. The two become close friends, and soon Abe is taught to focus his anger and quest for vengeance towards manipulating a specialized axe which he uses to slice and dice the bloodsuckers left and right; the training sequences were very effective and moving, reminding me very much of comic book film adaptation backstories in which the main hero character is learning to develop and utilize his or her powers or abilities – in fact, it reminded me most closely of Bruce Wayne’s (Christian Bale) training in the beginning of Batman Begins. By the time Abe learns how to swing his axe, he’s destroying vampires like it was going out of style, becoming one of the most feared slayers by members of the undead society of this time.
He eventually is sent out into the world by his friend and mentor, who sends him little “cryptic” assignments in which he hunts down and stalks vampires upon his friend’s bidding. Working in a local general store, he meets Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Live Free or Die Hard, The Thing, Death Proof) and the two fall for each other; in the meantime, Abe keeps searching for the lead vampire that killed the member of his family when he was a boy. By the time the second half of the film comes around, Abe is president of the U.S. and has married Winstead’s character, while also learning a terrible secret about his so-called mentor, trainer and friend (this actually occurs during the earlier youth segments). Out of a sense of revenge over his son, Lincoln sets out to declare a final war on the vampires who are still infesting the landscape – to do so, he orders the mass gathering of silver so that they can be made into weapons against the armies of the undead. The following frames and sequences which depict revolutionary war-style battles in the open fields against soldiers secretly posing as vampires got a little hokey and simply unbelievable, but the scenes involving a president Abe Lincoln, with his top hat, beard, coattails and all fighting vamps and finally the head vamp atop a speeding train supposedly carrying the silver shipments was pretty cool.
VIDEO QUALITY ANALYSIS:
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter looked downright awesome in 1080p on Blu-ray; from the opening shot of Washington, DC during Lincoln’s time to the sequences dealing with his youth, the images in this Blu-ray transfer were bursting with ripe detail, almost surreal scale of depth and bordering-on-cartoonish improvements over the normally static, rather flat DVD presentations. The rapid-fire editing techniques during the axe-wielding and killing sequences showed no degradation of video quality or lag of any kind, and blood flying from attacked vampires was rich and realistic enough. Some outdoor/brightly-lit scenes were downright stunning in their visuals – trees and foliage took on a dimension and pop rarely seen and the cobblestone streets of the time period exhibited detail that was most impressive. From start to finish, this was nearly as if the graphic novel had come to life on the screen – one nice transfer here from Fox.
AUDIO QUALITY ANALYSIS:
Similarly, the DTS-HD Master Audio mix, though reduced down to a 5.1 arrangement on my system, was bombastic from the very start – Abe’s axe against trees and vampire flesh were accompanied by heft and solid LFE, while certain sequences boasted solid surround support – one scene in particular impressed me over all others, in which Abe is fighting some vamps atop the speeding train towards the end and they go through a swarm of fireflies…the realism in this sequence as translated via the Master Audio track’s surround delivery was astonishing in certain respects. As always, however, probably due to my system’s “dumbing down” of the 7.1 mix into 5.1, dialogue suffered in terms of low overall output as did the whole track, causing me to raise the master volume quite a bit over what I normally listen at. But this was far from a disappointing mix.
This was a very cool, surprisingly different flick – give it a rental for this Halloween season. As for a buy? I am not quite sure yet; while definitely entertaining, I am still uncertain if this had that “wow – I MUST own this!” quality about it.
I will be posting my review of Zookeeper soon…look for it!