20th Century Fox has made the Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter trailer and several new images available to us. You can view the videos via the player below.
As mentioned in our piece on the possibility of an Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter sequel, we were one of a few outlets included on a journey to Lincoln’s tomb and presidential library in Springfield, IL (keep an eye out for our interview with director Timur Bekmambetov and star Benjamin Walker as well as further details on the event).
The Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter trailer is now online, and Screen Rant has the first look at this hybrid fantasy/historic drama:
As you can see, the emphasis in the teaser is establishing our 16th president as a but-kicking, name-taking supernatural hero. The filmmakers want to invite you into an imagined world in which everything is quite far from “what it seems.” Yet the trailer also hopes to maintain the iconography of Lincoln’s incredible and indelible true history.
While in Springfield, we were invited to screen the trailer and featurette as well as several sequences from the film with Bekmambetov, Walker, Seth Grahame-Smith (Writer/Author), and Jim Lemley (Producer) on hand for a Q&A. Producer Tim Burton made an appearance via a sufficiently strange and engaging black-and-white greeting from London (where he is finishing his work on another vampire offering, Dark Shadows). During his introduction, Burton stressed (in his own Burtonesque way) his passion and enthusiasm for the project. (How I wish I had that video to share with you today, reader. Alas, I will leave you with this: there was snow, Victorian cosplay and two frightening and beautiful human-mannequin women.)
Each member of the panel sought to clarify the film’s tone. “The title is the joke,” Walker said at one point, “the film is the fulfillment.”Meaning, they took a notion which is inherently somewhat silly and sought to ground it in such a way that it would resonate as real to an audience while still delivering on the action and entertainment elements.
Each reference to the actual honest Abe, however, is re-formed to establish him as what Grahame-Smith refers to as “the first real American hero…as an action hero.” The hat becomes an indication of a man who will take no prisoners, his axe a tool in a dark and hidden war against unspeakable horror. Lincoln’s words and speeches are utilized in the narrative as well, both in an out of their historical context. An unexpected side-effect of the smokey and haunting V.O. in the teaser, for me, was a burning need to hear a good amount of Johnny Cash music. I digress.
The footage that we screened reflected some of the contemporary and impactful action that Bekmambetov is known for. There were also moments of humor between Ben Walker’s Lincoln and Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Mary Todd Lincoln, as well as a glimpse of the hero-by-night, lawyer-by-day as he attempts to come into his own as a slayer of all things evil and nefarious under the tutelage of Dominic Cooper’s Henry Sturgess.
The scene between Mary and Abe takes place in the first blush of their courtship. He, a young lawyer, takes his lady on a sweet romantic picnic. She, in a state of concern for his seeming constant state of exhaustion (and with perhaps a bit of feminine pique) asks what he has been doing with his nights. Being honest Abe, he opts to tell her the truth: he’s been busy slaying five, no wait six, vampires… She laughingly plays along with him, thinking it one big game, and the scene makes for a light and charming exchange between Walker and Elizabeth Winstead, giving us the sense, as the audience, that theirs may indeed be a relationship that we can become invested in.
The scene between Sturgess and Lincoln takes place when Lincoln is a young man still grieving over the death of his mother (who was murdered by vampires before his helpless eyes). A Yoda-like Sturgess charges Lincoln with harnessing his rage (which serves as untapped power) in order to chop down a tree with one blow. Lincoln digs deeper and deeper to discover that his most potent emotion springs from his own inability to stop the creatures. With a single burst of nearly inhuman strength, visually depicted as a blast of light, he cuts down the tree, at which point a relentless Sturgess instructs him to now “do the rest of them” meaning, the forest.
A third scene finds Lincoln on his first quest to hunt a vampire. He stumbles in his pursuit of a pharmacist to the the undead and is quickly sent through a trap door where he finds himself hanging upside down beside several unfortunate humans who have become blood Slurpee’s for the demon. We are left to wonder how the future preserver of the “united” in United States will find his way out of the mess. We hope it includes turning the tables on the nasty little shopkeeper, though. It’s bad business (and just plain rude) to drain the life’s blood from your clientele.
“It’s gonna be very bloody,” Grahame-Smith promised horror fans. “Parts of it are gonna be very scary. But more than that – and this is a point of personal pride with me as a horror fan my whole life – this movie puts vampires back where they belong. And that’s as bad guys and not heartthrobs. They should be beheaded with an axe and not kissed by tweens. That’s what you can expect: badass vampires getting treated like the killers that they are.”
The film weaves the vampires into the real-life-story of the man in the same manner that Grahame-Smith integrated the reality of Lincoln’s legacy into his horror-fantasy. The Confederate army is infiltrated by the undead, who have a significant role to play in the cause and evolution of the Civil War. In fact, one of the scenes we saw depicted a marauding brood of vamps-as-Confederates charging (and violently decimating) the Union soldiers at Gettysburg. They are able to fight during the day, we were told, via the use of special sunglasses and the invention of sunscreen. (The pharmacist that Lincoln encountered seems to have been the creator of the vampire-grade #two-million SPF.)
Though the bulk of the film follows the same trajectory as Graham-Smith’s novel, there were some adjustments made to create a more cinematic rendering. Rufus Sewell’s Adam was introduced in order to create a central villain that the audience, through Lincoln, can focus on as a distinguishable foe to best. The other shifts were implemented in order to give the film a sizable climax, as well as to open it up to (potentially) become a franchise. We are not privy to the details of the altered ending, however. For that we will have to wait for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter to open in theaters on June 22nd, 2012.
Stay tuned for more from the filmmakers as well as our trip to Springfield.
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