Review - Time to Put a Stake in Vampire Movies ("Abraham Lincoln - Vampire Hunter, " "Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter")
"The book was better."
That's what I always hear from people after seeing movies based on books like the Harry Potter series and more recently, "The Hunger Games." Well, I read "AL:VH" and I have to agree... the book WAS better - WAY better!
What surprises me the most here is that the screenwriter, Seth Grahame-Smith, also wrote the novel. Which begs the question: why did he bastardize his own novel and reduce it down to a silly action-action-action nonsense film? Didn't he think his own excellent cerebral, thinking-man's novel would translate the same for the general public?
Young Abraham Lincoln sees his mama killed by a vampire and swears a life-long vengeance against the bloodsuckers. But in THIS world, vampires can exist is the daytime, they can't kill each other, and not one of them ever gets a stake in the heart! Silver is their primary means of death. That, and decapitation, of course.
Anyway, young Mr. Lincoln (Benjamin Walker---looking like a young Lian Neesom) grows up and goes after mom's killer and is nearly killed himself. Rescued and nursed back to health by a turncoat vampire named Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper,) he teaches Abe (in your atypical training montage) how to kill vampires using a silver infused ax (which Lincoln takes to wielding like a Samurai warrior.) Abe agrees to Henry's "rules" and embarks on a journey to kill only the vampires that Henry hand picks.
Abe soon befriends shop owner Joshua Speed (Jimmi Simpson) and becomes his clerk by day and studies the law and kills vampires by night. But all work and no play makes Abe a dull boy, and one day who walks into the store but lovely Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and her finance, political upstart Stephen Douglas (Alan Tudyk.)
Naturally Honest Abe falls for this not-quite-insane-yet Mary and the two hit it off. Abe then meets his old buddy, William Johnson (Anthony Mackie,) an African-America on the lam from freeing slaves. The three (Abe, Johnson, and Speed) form a vampire-killing squad and go on the hunt for the undead.
But they get trouble from a 5000-year-old head-honcho vampire named Adam (Rufus Sewell) and his lethal wife, Vadoma (Erin Wasson.) The last thing Adam wants is a vampire killer loose in his territory and goes about trying to kill Lincoln, but has some pretty difficult times in doing it. Then there's this whole Civil War thing that happens, and Lincoln gets elected president, and then you are subjected to two very silly chase scenes with stampeding horses and a runaway train that are SO ridiculously laughable it wouldn't have taken much to tip the scales of this movie into the genre of parody.
Director Timur Bekmambetov ("Wanted") decided to pull out his magic bag of visual CGI tricks and use lots of 'bullet-time' slo-mo for all the action scenes and leave all the story, logic, historical accuracy, and plot for someone else. A real shame considering that this could have been a really great film if Grahame-Smith made it more like his novel and didn't lower it down to the common denominator with all the whiz-bang CGI non-stop silly MTV action stuff. I guess he thought that his book would be better served up as a platter of "short-attention span theater".
Yeah, the book was better..
CAPTAIN KRONOS: VAMPIRE HUNTER (1974)
Ya gotta love Hammer!
Listing a plethora of Frankenstein, Dracula, and other horror films, Hammer films set the standard for a British wave of damn fine movies in the 50's, 60's and 70's that are still highly regarded today. A gem made during Hammer's later days was this unnoticed vampire nugget that is my personal favorite.
Written, produced, and directed by Brian Clemens, this quirky little story that takes place in a undisclosed AnyEuroTown circa 1800's where vampires abound. But a hero travels from town to town dispatching them with his hunchback companion and wooing the ladies in his bloody wake.
He is Captain Kronos, played with all blond hair swirling, swashbuckling glee by Horst Janson. Lightning fast with his sword (think "the Waco Kid" from "Blazing Saddles" fast, and you get the idea,) he and his BFF, Professor Hieronymus Grost (John Cater, playing a hunchback with great empathy,) a walking encyclopedia on vampires, travel to aid their friend Dr. Marcus (John Carson) when a vampire outbreak reaches his village.
Once there, Kronos meets his lady-to-woo, Carla (the always luscious and beautiful Caroline Munro) and the stuck-up siblings of the Family Durward, a royal bloodline that may or may not be vampires living in a local castle. Soon people are being killed, but have no fear - Kronos and Grost (like Holmes and Watson) are on the case, tracking the killer's moves using vampire traps. We also learn that killing a vampire isn't that easy; not all vampires can die with a simple stake through the heart or a sword through the spleen.
Running at a swift 90 minutes with a pulse quickening musical score ( a Hammer trademark,) this film is so much fun to watch! Rent it if you get the chance!
Available on Netflix & Blockbuster.com