The reviews of the film had been dismal, but I felt duty bound to watch it, and give the film a review. On July 3, having closed my law office for the afternoon, my family and I went to the movies. While the rest of my family, not sharing my duty to report on the film, joined the folks seeing Spider-man III, I strolled over to see the Great Emancipator dispatch vampires. The viewing was rather like a private showing. The audience in the vast theater consisted of me and one individual in the back. I found this aspect of the film quite pleasant. Alas that is the first and last positive aspect of this film that I can report. Intrepid souls who wish to can follow me into the bowels of ALVH below, the usual spoiler caveat being in force.
The film opens by having Lincoln’s mother killed by a vampire, Jack Barts, who bites her secretly at night, observed only by the boy Abraham Lincoln. The vampire does this in revenge for Thomas Lincoln attacking Barts who was beating Abraham and a slave boy, who Abraham was attempting to defend. Apparently Thomas was in debt to the vampire and had been working out the debt. He tells Barts at the conclusion of their confrontation that the only penny more he will get from Thomas will have a fist wrapped about it. Barts kills Nancy Hanks Lincoln in revenge. The film then shifts nine years later and the young Lincoln, now an adult, his father having ahistorically died, is consumed with a desire to kill Barts in revenge for the slaying of his mother. He encounters Barts, and is on the losing end of the fight, when Henry Burgess, a “good” vampire although Lincoln does not know this, intervenes and saves Lincoln’s life. He then trains Lincoln to be a vampire hunter.
The film next follows Lincoln to Springfield, where he works in a store owned by his new friend Joshua Speed during the day while hunting local vampires at night, at the command of Henry Sturgess. He meets and falls in love with Mary Todd, despite the admonition of Sturgess that a hunter should have no friends or family. Eventually he kills Jack Barts, marries Mary Todd, and goes into politics, hating both slavery and vampires and knowing that vampires are often slave owners who feed on their slaves. (Considering that a prime field hand cost about $800.00 at the time, the equivalent of four years wages for an average working man, this would have been a very expensive way for vampires to appease their hunger for human blood.) Lincoln breaks with his mentor Sturgess when he learns that Sturgess is a vampire. He concentrates on politics, putting up his silver edged axe that he uses in his slayings, and is elected president.
The film depicts Jefferson Davis calling on the head vampire, Adam, to strike an alliance for the vampires to fight for the Confederacy. It is rather foolish to take umbrage at this sequence in such a historically illiterate film, but I did. As much as I view Lincoln and the Union cause as wholly right, I was offended by this gratuitous slap at the Confederacy by the purveyors of this worthless junk. Far better is the treatment accorded the Confederacy in a Twilight Zone episode Still Valley in 1961. Rod Serling was a fairly far to the left liberal, but note the reaction beginning at 6:09 in the video clip below when desperate Confederates are given the opportunity to win the War by invoking Satan and renouncing God:
The vampire Confederate alliance proves effective at Gettysburg, until Lincoln has a supply of silver weapons shipped by rail to the battle to turn the tide. Defeating an attempt by Adam to hijack what Adam thinks is the silver train, but is actually a decoy, Lincoln slays Adam in a lengthy fight sequence. The film ends with a victorious Lincoln after the War going off to Ford’s Theater, turning down the offer of Sturgess, to whom he reconciled during the War when they fought together against Adam, to make him immortal by transforming him into a vampire, noting that other things besides vampires are immortal, presumably a reference to the memory of Lincoln in the nation.
Needless to say, I did not go this film to see a historical treatise on Lincoln and his times, but, hoping against hope, that the film would either be humorous or clever. If humorous the film would have been an extended light-hearted spoof with the filmmakers and the actors and actresses clearly indicating that the premise of the film was ludicrous, and they knew it, but we were all going to have a good time. Not this film. The film is deadly serious and grim, with nary an intentional smile. A film with a ridiculous premise that takes itself seriously is a very bad idea.
The film could have been clever, for example adhering strictly to history, with Lincoln’s vampire hunting being interspersed throughout, and the strenous efforts taken by Lincoln to conceal his activities. Alas, the film is an ongoing crime against history, with the writers involved having only the most superficial knowledge of Lincoln and the period.
The actors and actresses never convince the viewer that they are depicting the people they portray. At all times they speak and act like twenty-first century actors and actresses wearing 19th century costumes. There is absolutely no feel for the period. The film could have been set around almost any historical figure, with only minor changes in plot and dialogue. When the hook of your film is a historical personage of the magnitude of an Abraham Lincoln, a figure who, even in these historically ignorant times, many Americans have some knowledge of, the film must convey some sense of that man, and this film fails to do that completely.
What remains is a poorly acted slasher film with grisly, violent, albeit lacklustre, fight scenes. A complete waste of time and money, and definitely the worst film of co-producer Tim Burton.