Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter: A Movie Review
Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter (2012) is an important movie because of the way it depicts the relationship between the supernatural horror---in this case vampires---and the human-created institutional horror---in this case slavery in the United States. Usually, the supernatural horror movie assigns overwhelming primary importance to the phenomena of supernatural horror. As a whole, these movies suggest that the supernatural horror is now humanity's top priority. We are given to understand that the forces of evil are gathering strength and that we are quickly heading toward something of a something's-got-to-give crisis point. If something is not done to arrest these evil forces, all human progress will surely come to a halt; civilization all over the world will be reduced to ruins, unless the unearthly evil is stopped and/or destroyed.
These movies usually suggest---with varying levels of blatancy---that, in the face of the unspeakable, unearthly terror, human problems and conflicts seem pretty insignificant after all, and most of those are caused by simple human 'stupidity.' If humanity doesn't 'get its act together,' these movies say, and launch an effective, concerted, meaningful response against said supernatural horror, nothing else will matter, because there will be nothing else left of human civilization.
Consider the first Hellboy movie (there have been two). That movie posed a particular relationship between the supernatural horrors of Hell and Nazism. It was not a causal relationship; Hellboy did not suggest that the supernatural horror caused German Nazism of the 1930s and 1940s and all that went with it. No, the supernatural horror was, however, shown as an enabling, catalytic agent of Nazism. Hellboy went a step further with a couple of lines of dialogue, suggesting that the supernatural horror directly augmented the power of Hitler and Nazism.
The Hellboy movie made the decision that such movies always make: that the most important thing for humanity to do, now, is defeat the supernatural horror; all of humanity's energies must be directed toward that. Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter faced the same opportunity with American slavery but made a radically different and, I think, unique choice, a choice that such movies never make, as far as I know.
Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter actually decided that achieving social justice in ordinary human affairs, eradicating the institution of slavery was more important than defeating the supernatural horror of the vampires. This film went a step further, again. Not only did this movie decide that it was more important to eradicate slavery than to destroy the vampire hordes; but it also reversed the relationship between the supernatural horror and the human-created horror.
In Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, the vampires were not drawn as having been the enabling, catalytic force for slavery, as had been the case, in Hellboy, with the supernatural horror and Nazism. No, in the Abraham Lincoln movie, the human-created institution of slavery was drawn as having been the enabling, catalytic agent for the vampires. In other words, it was the fact that the vampires had been ensconced within the political and economic power elite of the slave-owning hierarchy, which gave the blood-suckers their organizational power.
In still other words, to be perfectly clear, the movie tells us that if the blood-suckers had not had the benefit of operating from behind the veil of human chattel slavery in the United States---the vampires could never have become so dangerous to humanity. Therefore, the thing to do is pursue justice in ordinary human affairs, in the same way we would have done if the supernatural horror had never arrived.
Now then, there is a scene in Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, in the Oval Office, in which Lincoln is struggling about issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. There are a couple of advisors in the room with him. One of them is a black man, a childhood friend of Lincoln's (I'm sure some dramatic license was taken here) and the other was a man (let's just call him a 'man' for simplicity's sake) called Henry.
Henry was the fellow who had taught Lincoln how to hunt vampires, decades ago. Henry argued against Lincoln issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves. Henry's reason was that, as he saw it, slavery had been the only thing that kept vampires sated. Presumably, as Henry saw it, if the institution of slavery were torn down, the vampires would, sort of go on a crazy, wild, unrestrained rampage. The removal of slavery would make the vampires more dangerous, he was trying to say. Again, Lincoln, himself, reasons to the exact opposite conclusion: that the existence of the human-created horror of slavery had made the already dangerous supernatural horror of the vampire more dangerous than they would have been otherwise. That is a unique and powerful departure.
Its interesting to compare Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter with the Blade trilogy of vampire-slayer films starring Wesley Snipes. Those movies say that the supernatural horror of the vampires are enabled and facilitated by the American corporate structure. In those movies it is the fact that the vampires are ensconced within the elite American power structure of high finance, which gives the undead their organizational effectiveness. Yet again, the corporate structures enables the vampires, making them insidiously more dangerous to humanity than they otherwise would have been.
But corporations still exist today, revered as ever for the most part, so Wesley Snipes is left to combat the vampires on a piecemeal basis. If the corporation, as an economic unit, no longer exists a few hundred years from now, it would be interesting to know what society thinks of these entities in retrospect. If movies are still being made at that time, it would be interesting to know how cinema processes the relationship of vampires to corporations.
In spite of the lukewarm review given this movie by most professional critics, as far as I know, I found Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter to be a perfectly serviceable, entertaining supernatural horror action thriller. I would only say that I could have done without the stop-motion stuff in the fight scenes. One more thing I would add is to say that I thought the movie brought forward one clever innovation in the construction of the legend: It seems that vampires cannot kill each other. "God's little joke," as the main villain says. For this reason, they must cultivate their human agents to kill their fellow blood-sucker enemies for them.
Okay, let's leave it there. Thank you so much for reading.