You’d be forgiven for thinking that the notion of slavery-ending, Civil War-winning US President Abraham Lincoln actually having had a secret past as a vampire hunter is a little bit far-fetched. So spare a thought for the cast and crew of the upcoming Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter who turned up to work each day with one artistic decision uppermost in their minds – that the joke stops at the title.
Not a bad call really, since it’s a bloody silly one, but with the premise laid out for him director Timur Bekmambetov (Night Watch, Wanted) has been busy playing in the sandpit of 19th Century America. Not the most familiar territory for an Eastern European perhaps, but one that’s allowed him to indulge his taste for action in the setting of a historical epic, one that obviously comes complete with plenty of bloodsuckers as you’ll see from the following trailer:
Flicks was lucky enough to see a couple of scenes from the film in Sydney recently as well as interview Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter writer Seth Grahame-Smith, an opportunity that helped to provide more context to the gore-packed couple of minutes above. My interview with Grahame-Smith will be online soon, but today I’ll be sharing what I can about the scenes shown to us without ruining them.
In the first, Lincoln (Benjamin Walker, Kinsey) is taken under the wing of Henry Sturges (Dominic Cooper, Captain America: The First Avenger). Kicking off with some typical mentoring – urging Lincoln to dig deeper, to try harder, wield that axe with more oomph – Sturges is the dude who clues Lincoln up to the idea that the world is full of vampires, there’s not just the one that killed his mum. Once this Yoda-ing is done, Lincoln’s dispatched to a small Southern town where Sturges tips him off to vampires by that ancient form of text message – the letter. Lincoln visits these folks one at a time, having the sort of one-on-one scraps that’ll build his abilities, and are as fast-paced and CGI-filled as you’d expect from Bekmambetov.
We get a taste of the villains here too, big bad Rufus Sewell (Dark City) lording it up in a country manor and local fella Martin Csokas (The Bourne Supremacy) getting his creep on. The sets look great, speaking to the intention to create a plausible world even when it’s filled with creatures with big sharp teeth, as do the costumes, and the beguiling Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) who catches Lincoln’s eye. This part of the film suggests that the idea of grounding it in reality as much as possible is a good move, the cast seeming to relish playing it straight with Walker in particular at ease as both an action lead and serious actor.
The second sequence played came from the film’s final scenes, Bekmambetov enjoying the chance to indulge himself with a CGI train set atop bridges unlikely to get planning permission. Some of this can be seen in the trailer and it is very much big budget blockbuster concluding fare – fights, fire, explosions, special effects and some kind of high stakes (sorry) event our heroes are trying to prevent. Here the film is far less grounded in the reality that we saw earlier, something I’d like to spend more time with, but it does send a clear signal that the flick won’t end like a period piece romance. Because of course with a title like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter that’s what everyone will be expecting…