As the only literate Reject, it’s my duty to find the latest, the greatest and the untouched classics that would make great source material for film adaptations. I read so you don’t have to.
This week, Print to Projector presents:
Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter
by Seth Grahame-Smith
“The boy had been crouched so long that his legs had fallen asleep beneath him – but he dared not move now.”
A young boy named Abraham suffers the grizzly frontier life of the early 19th century and is devastated by the loss of his mother. After finding out that she was killed by a vampire, he makes it his life’s work to hunt down the blood-thirsty monsters and cut off their giant-canine-tooth-stuffed heads with his axe. And to become President at some point. And free the slaves. And keep the union together.
The stellar mix of “real” journal entries from perhaps the most celebrated President in U.S. history with the florid prose of Seth Grahame-Smith tells a fake story in the style of how most real stories are being told these days. It’s clear the influence that David McCullough has had here, and Grahame-Smith snags attention by making you feel the sweat and wood chips on your brow while you’re exploring the Tennessee wilderness with a young Abraham. You also feel the blood spray against your face whenever the 16th President battles with the undead.
The hero of the story goes from a timid, book-hungry child-laborer (for his family) to a beastly man who manages to traverse the country, learning to love it and to hate the pests that suck its citizens dry. Along the journey, he encounters a vampire named Henry Sturges who challenges his prejudices against the creatures and becomes a lifelong companion in pointing out the ones who truly deserve to die. He also falls in love, experiences more tragedy, and finds that slave owners are aiding the vampires by feeding them. Finally! Proof that slave owners are doing something wrong!
The fake story of Lincoln’s vampire bloodlust is married perfectly with the true details of his life – to the point where the author creates other-worldly reasons for some of the actions that Lincoln was famous for.
Overall, the book is the brand of fun that makes you forget you’re learning history, even though the history presented is a fabrication.
Here is a story made for the screen that comes with the very real problem of becoming too much concept and not enough story. From time to time, the book itself falls prey to the gimmick, but if the film relies on strong characters and placing them in interesting positions, it could be strong. If the filmmakers wink at the audience, they just might blind themselves. Camp is absolutely the wrong way to go here.
The source material and the story must be taken seriously. With that in mind, it’s important to get a writer capable of capturing the spirit of a historical drama who sees the humanity in extreme circumstances. However, it’s not like the story is Schindler’s List here (so Steven Zaillian is out of the running), and the writer has to have a certain lightness to the touch. After all, vampires are being beheaded by a guy with a Chin Curtain. Thus, the right balance there can be found in David Franzoni, the mind behind Amistad and Gladiator.
In the same vein, and taking into consideration a certain look for the film, the best possible director to tell this ultimately American tale, is French. Christophe Gans, director of Brotherhood of the Wolf, has 1) dealt with period pieces and b) dealt with the supernatural. He’s a perfect choice here.
Stephen Moyer as Abraham Lincoln: Admittedly it would be interesting to have a guy who plays a vampire on television play a man hunting them down for the big screen, however the main draw here is that he’s a strong acting talent who sort of, kind of looks like Abraham Lincoln. He’s also right smack dab in the right age range, can do action, and has a terrible southern accent that would have to be drawn out of him like the demons from the possessed.
Michael Fassbender as Henry Sturges: Sturges is an ancient former human who bonds with Lincoln over a love of books and culture as well as the shared interest in killing vampires that truly deserve eternal death. Fassbender is a choice in keeping with taking the film seriously (his casting was one of the few things good about Jonah Hex) and in matching an actor with a role that would let him stretch his talents while having fun.
Samantha Morton as Mary Todd: For some reason, Morton hasn’t made it into the spotlight as much as she deserves (despite being the female Sam Rockwell in her indie status). She was even relegated to appearing in an Asylum film. Seriously. However, that sin should be forgotten in consideration of a long career of great, slightly crazy roles from Minority Report to Synecdoche, New York. She’s an unnerving presence, looks the part, and would make a great match for Moyer.
Cripsin Glover as Edgar Allan Poe: Poe plays a smaller, yet important role in the book and provides a solid friendship to Lincoln when he needs it most. Glover would need his forehead expanded, but as far as actors go, he’s pretty much the living embodiment of oddity and Poe-ness.
…With Jude Law as John Wilkes Booth: Law would be playing an egotistical actor who is, you guessed it, a vampire.
Who Owns It:
The word on the street (and on our own site) is that Timur Bekmambetov and Tim Burton are producing the film together with Grahame-Smith adapting the work himself. There was a point in time when I got excited to see the name Burton on a press release, but not anymore. At this point in his career, he’s exactly wrong to direct this, so I’m hoping he chooses to stay on as the producer and not take on any other responsibilities that bring him near a camera.
Right now, there’s a young writer who is trying to shove Birdemic into To Kill A Mockingbird in the hopes that he or she is going to become the next big thing in literature. The fad, however, is over.
Grahame-Smith was the writer of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” which kick-started a mini-surge in a genre that lacks imagination and skill. However, if Abraham Lincoln can learn not to judge a vampire by their sun-sensitive skin, maybe we should do the same for books.
“Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter” is one of the better examples of the genre and it would make a fantastic, ridiculous film.
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If you have a suggestion for a book, comic, play or webcomic we should cover, email Cole and title the email, “Free Russian Brides for Free.”