Twenty seconds into the trailer, it’s clear that Twentieth Century Fox wasn’t kidding around when it bought the rights to Seth Grahame-Smith’s Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter (visit the official site). The 2010 mashup novel — the unlikely hit follow-up to Grahame-Smith’s absurd Pride and Prejudice and Zombies — is an epic mixing of history, fable and fantasy. Honest Abe is born into an era of bloodsuckers, during a time of mass immigration, as the vampires are being flushed out of Europe. His grandfather was killed by a vampire, his mother was the victim to the poisons of vampire blood. When he’s elected president, he leads the charge into the Civil War as a means of averting a systematic takeover of America by power-hungry vampire hordes. This is goofy, glorious stuff.
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And now it’s been brought to life with all the genre style and gratuitous horror effects fans would hope for. In this tantalizing trailer for the film (which opens June 22), fans get their first glimpse of what director Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) and producer Tim Burton have in store. Yes, there’s a mother’s gravestone, a vampire duel atop an out-of-control locomotive and an apocalyptic gloom that surrounds a 19th-century Washington. Personally, my favorite moment of the teaser arrives right at the end, as a young and fit Abe, sans cloak or hat, obliterates a tree with a single axe throw. After all, isn’t this the real appeal of the book: A vampire thriller in a low-tech era, where bats and swords and axes tip the scales, and brute strength wins the day? Like all the best vampire stories, the playing field is reduced to a set of crude basics.
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The mashup worked in literary form; now the bigger question is whether the cinematic mashup can appeal to the core constituencies. Is there any way that a vampire spoof like this can work as both horror film and comedy — not to mention summer tentpole? The jury’s still out, but this is a promising first glimpse of the Civil War as Vampire Apocalypse. Bring it on.
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