CATEGORIES Movie NewsSteven Spielberg's Lincoln may get all the Oscar buzz in 2012, but it's not the only Lincoln biopic that Hollywood has to offer discerning moviegoers. And if you prefer your history with a little more blood spray and lot more acrobatic vampires, Wanted director Timur Bekmambetov's Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter has you covered.
Because instead of Doris Kearns Goodwin's acclaimed biography "Team of Rivals," Bekmambetov has his own literary source material to work off, courtesy of genre-mashing writer Seth Grahame-Smith (of "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" fame). The title pretty much says it all, but in their take on America's 16th President, Honest Abe (played by Benjamin Walker) is reenvisioned as an axe-wielding action hero, determined to avenge his mother's death by ridding the Union of the undead.
But despite a few obvious liberties, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter claims to play its history relatively straight -- apart from the central premise that slavery was a cover for widespread vampirism, that is. So, as a public service to history students everywhere, I attempted to separate fact from fiction, at least according to the historical horror mash-up.
1. Historians approve of the revisionist action movie: Fact. According to the cast and crew, great pains were taken to make Vampire Hunter as historically accurate as possible when it came to its 19th century setting and Civil War reenactments. And that commitment earned Bekmambetov's 3D action movie the help and backing of both the Library of Congress and the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois.
2. Lincoln's political rivals were his most dangerous foes: Fiction. Sorry Doris Kearns Goodwin, but the opposition Lincoln faced in "Team of Rivals" and at the polls is nothing compared to the blood-sucking monsters he has to deal with in Vampire Hunter. Aside from their superhuman speed/strength, razor-sharp fangs/claws and ability to turn invisible, Lincoln also gets a horse thrown at him by one of his undead opponents. And you thought political debates could be unsportsmanlike.
3. Lincoln fought his battles with words: Fiction. Sure, his famous Gettysburg Address is just one of many examples of Lincoln's oratory brilliance. But according to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, he was just as skillful with an axe -- or a shotgun, knife, silverware, or whatever other household items happened to be available to him at the time.
4. The Civil War was "brother against brother": Fiction. While that may be true, apparently it was also "brother against vampire," after the Confederacy turns to the undead to boost its enlistment numbers in Vampire Hunter.
5. Lincoln wasn't much of a ladies' man: Fact. Walker's young Lincoln may be smooth when it comes to slaying vampires, but he's clueless when it comes to women, exhibiting all the clumsy fumbling of your typical rom-com lead. Still, he somehow manages to catch the eye of Mary Elizabeth Winstead's Mary Todd, starring here as the 19th century version of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl.
6. Vampires can kill other vampires: Fiction. Just about every vampire movie comes with its own set of terms and conditions. And in Vampire Hunter's case, the undead can't kill one another (they can, however, toss each other around like rag dolls). For reasons that go entirely unexplained, only the living can kill the dead. Fortunately, this is where Abe and his trusty axe come in.
7. Vampires can't be exposed to sunlight: Fiction. Thankfully for the Civil War-era undead, as long as they keep re-applying sunscreen every few hours and own a pair of tiny vintage sunglasses, they'll be just fine. Hey, at least they don't sparkle.
8. Mary Todd Lincoln was a crack shot with a rifle: Fact. The former First Lady may not see much action in Bekmambetov's movie, but when she does, she makes it count.
9. Lincoln was an honest man: Fiction. Despite Honest Abe's present-day reputation, Lincoln allegedly lied to his wife for years about his secret life as a vampire hunter. His ironclad excuse? He was "working nights."
10. Historical biopics don't have to be boring: Fact. Despite what J. Edgar may have led you to believe, not all political biopics are inherently dull. Thanks to the burgeoning historical horror genre (FDR is reportedly next in line for the action hero treatment), they can now balance policy-making with slo-mo decapitations. If a president can be turned into a vampire hunter, a presidential biopic can be turned into a B-movie.