Of all the fictional monsters that have permeated our popular culture, vampires are both the hardest and easiest to kill. Their superhuman abilities already make them a formidable threat to the safety of the populace, but add to this their nigh-invulnerability to traditional weapons and now you have an undead monster that cannot be killed. Much like zombies, though, vampires have a few simple weaknesses that can make them easy to vanquish. Simple things like silver and sunlight can solve a vampire problem, much like fire and headshots clean up a zombie mess. That being said, even with these simple weapons at our disposal, vampires are cunning creatures and have ways to avoid being killed. This week’s two films focus on the vampire hunters who have been trained to dispatch vampires straight to hell.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Length: 105 minutes / 1.75 hours
The nice thing about history not being all-inclusive is that certain ideas can be implied that help to explain away some of the lesser-known causes of world-changing events. Much like the National Treasure franchise links together moments from American history in an entertaining way, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012) takes the well-known history of Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War and puts a vampiric twist on it. After all, if you have a character who has a nickname of “rail splitter,” then what better way to kill vampires than to decapitate them with a silver-bladed axe? It helps to have an understood lore of vampires in order to smoothly integrate it with an alternate view of history. After all, sometimes what we know about history and what we know about vampires can be combined into an interesting “what if” story.
Upon seeking revenge for the death of his mother, Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) discovers that her supposed poisoning was actually the effects of being bitten by a vampire. Said vampire, Jack Barts (Marton Csokas) nearly kills Lincoln, but is stopped by Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper). Sturgess sees potential in Lincoln and soon gives him the tools and skills necessary to dispatch a vampire like Barts. Years later, Lincoln finally kills Barts, but not before learning that Sturgess is also a vampire who was turned into this form by Adam (Rufus Sewell), the first vampire on American soil. Adam has set up his immortal kingdom in the southern states of the country, mostly because of the almost unlimited access to the blood of the slaves. After giving up the life of a vampire hunter, now President Lincoln sees the Civil War for what it really is and can now use it to eradicate vampires from his country.
Length: 131 minutes / 2.18 hours
Most of what we know about vampires came from Bram Stoker’s gothic novel, Dracula. Not only did this book cover the powers of these blood-sucking beasts, but it also gave insight into how to kill them. The leading authority on vampire hunting from this book was none other than Abraham Van Helsing. His knowledge of how to take down vampires has made him the de facto and original vampire hunter. Consequently, the name Van Helsing is eponymous with vampire hunting, even if the characters based on him aren’t exactly the same as the one from the novel. Case in point, Gabriel Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) from the 2004 action film, Van Helsing, has a different origin story than Abraham Van Helsing, but still maintains his expert skill at dispatching vampires, as well as any number of paranormal creatures.
Employed by the Catholic church to hunt and kill monsters, Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) would be haunted by the deaths of many of these killings, were it not for his amnesia preventing him from remembering them. Upon his arrival back at the Vatican after dispatching Mr. Hyde (Robbie Coltrane), Van Helsing learns that his next mission is to take out Dracula (Richard Roxburgh), who has already partnered with Victor Frankenstein (Samuel West) to execute a nefarious scheme. Once in Transylvania, the minions of Dracula, including a werewolf and a number of vampire brides, hinder Van Helsing’s progress. Along the way, he finds Frankenstein’s monster (Shuler Hensley) and stays his killing strike once he learns the reanimated corpse isn’t evil. Because of his mercy, he learns of Dracula’s plan to reanimate an army of vampire children. Now it’s up to him to stop the plan and kill Dracula.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 vampire vanquishers