Astute casting choices boost ‘Abraham Lincoln’By Nestor U. Torre
Philippine Daily Inquirer
THE current film, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” is an instructive example of the creative verve and chutzpah with which some cinematic artists tweak old themes and even historical figures and make them fresh and feisty again for a new generation of viewers.
This time around, even the venerable former US president, Abraham Lincoln, isn’t spared: The wildly inventive film reconfigures him, not just as a freer of slaves, but also as—the vampire nation’s worst nightmare!
What is going on here? It’s the movies acknowledging the fact that vampire flicks are runaway hits this season—but, instead of coming up with another predictable bloodfest about pale youths with prognathously pointy teeth, it stands the hit trend on its pointy head with a lulu of a historical conceit: Way back in his childhood, Little Abe’s mother was sucked dry and killed by a vampire, so the future president trained himself to become a vampire exterminator non pareil.
In fact, Lincoln (played in adulthood by Benjamin Walker) kills so many of the dastardly critters with his trusty silver axe that you wonder how he ever found the time to fight a civil war and govern a nation!
Why do some filmmakers tweak facts and history into such a fictive pretzel? Precisely because they can. It’s never been done before, they have a great time figuring out how to make their monumental fiction fit the historical facts, the entire vampire film ethos gets cheerfully spoofed to death—and the putative production is such a novel departure from the ordinary that it ends up as a sleeper hit! —You can’t get any pluckier than that.
To be sure, the film does run the risk of being such a slick and saucy lark that it ends up enjoying itself too much. For one thing, its vampire assassinations turn out to be repetitive and trite—once you’ve seen three or five, you’ve seen them all! So, what can the film do for an encore?!
The production does better when it comes to deft and productive casting: Its choice of relative newcomer Walker to play Lincoln is inspired, because the actor perfectly captures the future president’s gangly aw-shucks persona. But, when he turns vampire slayer, he effectively morphs into a period action hero, and heats up the screen with his exciting feats of incredible derring-do.
The movie’s other casting choices are similarly astute, with Mary Elizabeth Winstead hitting her own thespic home run as Lincoln’s emotionally troubled wife, Mary, and Dominic Cooper similarly shines as Abe’s mentor (who later turns out to be harboring a dark secret of his own).
Also on the up-and-up is the film’s use of the latest visual effects, which give the period production an occasionally contemporary feel—and flash—that makes it less of a dusty, turn-off for younger viewers.
Come to think of it, the movie’s best insurance in this regard is the fact that it has its tongue firmly in cheek. While it treats its historical sequences “seriously,” its intention to spoof the vampire trend “to death” is constantly clear—and contagious.
Fact is, vampire movies are so weird that they’re practically begging to be made savage fun of, as past howlers like “Pardon, Your Teeth Are In My Neck” have outrageously done. —Now, we can add “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” to the howling, yowling list!
Recent Stories:Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.