Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Post-modern novelist Seth Grahame-Smith is no dummy. His Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter are post-modern fiction-revisionist novels that fused either beloved classical literature or world-changing political figures with the Millennial generation’s love of supernatural beasts. The filmic adaptation of Grahame-Smith’s novel has come to fruition, although featuring pedestrian CGI effects and action, the inherent theme of vampires as slaves is as clever as the film gets.
In 1818, young Abraham Lincoln is a witness to two heinous acts that will forever change his outlook on slavery and vampires. When William Johnson, a young Black boy, is whipped by and abused by superior, Lincoln intervenes. Lincoln’s father is subsequently fired and Jack Barts (Marton Csokas), a wealthy plantation owner who owns Lincoln’s father’s debt, attacks his mother at night, who subsequently dies. Years later, Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) attempts to avenge his mother death by attacking Barts, but is easily overpowered, and saved by Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper).
Like any vampire narrative, the supernatural rules of vampires stray slightly from common narratives. Here, vampires are created when one vampire bites a human that is impure, and pure humans who are bitten simply die. Furthermore, only the living can kill the undead, and vampires cannot kill other vampires. Thus, Sturgess is resentful of Adam, the vampire whom all other vampire descent from, for turning him into a vampire and killing his wife.
Since the impure will become vampires upon being bitten, they become slaves, just as the Black men and women are slaves until the mid-19th century. Vampires such as Adam have existed for millennia have created vast empires of wealth, many of which now control the plantations where slaves not only provide free harvest labor, they are the harvest.
Vampires have created their own partiality in the new, free world. They themselves are not free, but powerful and wealthy enough to subject their influence has a hidden threat behind the Confederate cause. This theme is as deep as this film gets, since the rest of the story is a focused revenge story that becomes less of a North versus South but more of the free living American versus the undead enslaved by the supernatural.
Vampires and zombies in the past decade have represented society’s increasingly progressive stance towards sexuality, a theme that True Blood portrays respectfully. People coming out as homosexual and bisexual has become more common place. Although there are still some whom are hesitant to accept those who have already risked enough to finally express themselves, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter takes this contemporary representation of the vampire to a different time period and a different interpretation.
Although I have brought these themes to the forefront, the film tends to lean on the action. Lincoln is the Great Emancipator by day, and a vampire hunter by night. Lincoln’s inherent anger at the gross misconduct that marginalizes Black men and women and aggressively threatens all living men and women is encapsulated through his wielding of weapons. Lincoln stands tall and rather lanky, but in this film he appears small, yet powerful—at least powerful enough to swing through a thick tree bark with like a lumberjack.
It does not take much to see how the novel trumps the cinematic adaptation. The film become insincere quickly and remains pedestrian throughout the rest of the film. While there is a reason why novels like this and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies have substance in contemporary popular culture, they do not always transpire the same sincerity when adapted to the screen.