A guy like Grahame-Smith (born Seth Jared Greenberg) is sort of the English-major's anti-Christ. With an irreverent nod to history and the supernaturally-amazing humans who created it, Grahame-Smith writes his mash-ups as though he'll never have to face Lincoln or Austen because if he knew that one day he'd have to explain to these true literary powerhouses why he axe-murdered their work for dollars, audiences might not have seen history come to life...with fangs.
Either Grahame-Smith is saying that the Confederacy was no better than a bunch of blood-suckers, OR, he's saying the humans who brutally used and abused slaves for generations are not actually responsible for their heinous acts. See why it's a sticky wicket??? There was a lot about this film that might not have kept the gaze of the casual eye but definitely caught a more sophisticated glance or two.
Grahame-Smith seems to hate women, or at least, not regard them very highly. His involvement with the Dark Shadows script had the same tendency; the women in that film were an unflattering combination of psychotic and/or narcissistic. Abe Lincoln's Mary Todd, played by Scott Pilgrim alum, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, has her head on her shoulders but her emotions in a can. Or, it could be the writing. Ben Walker plays a great Honest Abe but Winstead might have been a better vampire with her flat persona. There's apparently only one female vampire, Vadoma (Erin Wasson), and she's subordinate to her brother, Adam--as in, the Biblical Adam.
Now, what the audience doesn't necessarily know is that Grahame-Smith is twisting theological history here as well as American history. The first woman was the first vampire, Lilith. She was also Adam's first wife. Adam rejected Lilith because she refused to be subservient to Adam. She was thrown out of Paradise because of Adam's whining, villified as a "beast" for growing long hair and "making water" while sitting (no, really, it's in the Talmud...), so why should Adam now be handed on a silver-screened platter Lilith's hard-earned credit??? Lilith should have been named as the first vampire, not Adam. Abraham Lincoln would have wanted it that way, but then again, President Lincoln was an educated, liberal-minded person. And I'm not so sure about Grahame-Smith, despite his Emersonian education.
"Vadoma" was also a very strange name to give to a slave-owning, child-murdering white female character when it's also the name of a real-life African tribe in Zimbabwe. Anybody else scratching their heads in disbelief? Still can't get over the audacity of letting prejudice and racism slip between the cracks in a fictional vampire's teeth...people were the real monsters, and should be held accountable. Even today. Minimizing what happened with slaverey in America is equivalent to saying the Nazi's weren't really responsible for the Holocaust. It's dangerous to put a fictional template over important social evolutionary strides like the real Lincoln accomplished, no axe required.
Outside of Mr. Rosenberg's unimaginative use of both vampire mythology and American history, we have the actual film. The cinematography was decent, except when exaggerated by CGI. The action sequences were pretty interesting, particularly with Walker's clear comfort level with his prop axe.
I'm just going to say it, Ben Walker was the best part of this film. Any of the film's heart and soul came from his own. The kid's got chops; this reviewer hopes to see him in more future talkies. Unfortunately, the other aspect of the film that just didn't feel right was how Grahame-Smith made liking vampires somehow feel unpatriotic. For the first time in a long time, I sat with an audience while watching the film and if their reaction was any indication, what was a really intriguing book idea just didn't translate on the screen. There was a general lack of cohesion to the storyline and even seasoned talent like Rufus Sewell couldn't make it work well enough to give the $10/ticket a feeling of value.
On the Housel-scale, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, gets a generous 6/10, thanks to Ben Walker who practically carried the film on his 6'3" frame. Producer Tim Burton made a great choice in adapting this book to film but needed to hire someone outside of the author to write the screenplay--just because Grahame-Smith can pound out books, does not make him a good writer for the screen.