#311. Vampire Hunters

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 HunterAbraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Year: 2012
Rating: R
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.

Van HelsingVan Helsing
Year: 2004
Rating: PG-13
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

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#310. Abraham Lincoln

When you think of iconic American Presidents, who comes to mind? George Washington? Thomas Jefferson? Teddy Roosevelt? I would almost wager that Abraham Lincoln is easily the most recognizable of the Presidents. While he did not help found the country like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson did, he was the one President who helped to unite a country after it fell apart at the seams during his presidency. Consequently, and in part due to his assassination, Lincoln is revered as one of the best Presidents this country has ever had. It’s no wonder we have memorials for him across Washington D.C., his image emblazoned on our currency, and his face carved out of the side of a mountain. Of course, since Lincoln was almost bigger than life in reality, as a fictional character he carries nearly the same amount of clout. This week’s two films focus on different interpretations of Abraham Lincoln.

LincolnLincoln
Year: 2012
Rating: PG-13
Length: 150 minutes / 2.5 hours

Because the Civil War dominated Lincoln’s presidency, there are many sections of this American conflict that could be used as a backdrop for a biographical film. In part due to the vast amount of information collected about this war, it can be difficult to do the entirety of it any justice in the running time of a modern film. Many documentaries and miniseries have spent countless hours covering Lincoln and the Civil War, but if just one moment was to be the focus of a film about Lincoln, what would it be? Is it the Emancipation Proclamation? The Gettysburg Address? His first or second campaign for President? As is usually the case with many historical figures killed before their time, the events leading up to his death give a gripping and dramatic representation of a President who was tired of dealing with the Civil War.

Despite passing a war-time measure to free the slaves through the Emancipation Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) finds that what he has done in good conscience may be overturned once the war is over. Wanting to make the Proclamation permanent, he proposes the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which will be a final measure to abolish slavery in the United States. While it would be easier to ratify upon the meeting of the newly-elected Congress, the Civil War is likely to be finished by then, allowing the reacquired southern states to vote on the Amendment. Consequently, Lincoln wants to pass this Amendment quickly, but the rapidly upcoming peace negotiations with the Confederacy give many Congressmen pause; since it might be likely that a provision for peace would be to keep slavery in the South. With the Amendment finally up for a vote, Lincoln’s legacy lies in the hands of his Congress.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire HunterAbraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Year: 2012
Rating: R
Length: 105 minutes / 1.75 hours

Even the best biographical films about Abraham Lincoln are bound to have their historical accuracy questioned somewhere along the line. Some of these films are made with entertainment in mind, as was the case with Young Mr. Lincoln (1939), which used Henry Fonda in the titular role to enact Lincoln’s “origin story.” But what if the lack of historical accuracy was not an issue? There are enough themes and motifs surrounding Lincoln’s persona that he could be used as a fictional character. Since he’s so ingrained in American history, films like Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989) and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009) can use the historical Lincoln as a fictional character. And yet, none of these films ever come quite as close to re-writing the former President’s history than Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012) does.

As a young boy, Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) holds onto the pain of losing his mother by vowing to kill her supposed murderer, Jack Barts (Marton Csokas). Almost a decade later, he attempts to get his revenge; but is almost killed when he learns that Barts is a vampire. His salvation comes in the form of Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), who helps train Lincoln into a vampire hunter. Upon his successful completion of vampire hunter training, Lincoln finally manages to kill Barts, but not before he learns that Sturgess is also a vampire. At this point, Lincoln decides to quit his life as a vampire hunter and take up the mantle of politics to create the change he wants in the world. When the Civil War comes into full swing, Lincoln knows the Confederacy is using vampires to fight its battles. Sending all available silver to his Union troops, Lincoln decides to personally handle the head vampire himself.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 adaptations of Abraham Lincoln