Abraham Lincoln’s Suspenders of Disbelief

Two movies I made sure to see this summer were Prometheus and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

Prometheus was an easy sell. The prequel to Alien promised to deliver the origin story of the franchise’s nemesis.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter could have been a hard sell. After all, I quit reading the novel on page 15. The last vampire movie that was “must-see” for me starred Leslie Nielsen. And I’ve been self-conscious about films with splatter scenes since Watchmen (wondering, is this really my idea of entertainment?) Somehow the trailers for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter hooked me despite these objections.

Prometheus came out first. It was so beautifully made and so stupidly written. The characters behaved so cluelessly it was impossible to understand how they avoided being killed in traffic on the way to the spaceport, never mind on an alien world. Overwrought horror movie fans used to yell warnings to the people on-screen. I wanted to shout, “Yeah, smack that egg! Pound those buttons! Evolution in action, baby!” What a disappointing film.

Then I saw Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. It had its share of absurdities. A svelte Mary Todd and a handsome Abe Lincoln – clearly the originals could never get a job in Hollywood, even playing themselves. However, aided by the audience’s vague recollection of American history, and driven by characters who are consistently faithful to the tenets of this particular mythos, the movie overcomes its ridiculous premise in a very satisfying way. For two hours I was willing to believe what was on the screen.

Did I give Abraham Lincoln the benefit of a certain amount of “chronological snobbery” (as C. S. Lewis would call it)? And did Prometheus suffer in proportion? Chronological snobbery is the implicit (and erroneous) belief that people’s capabilities in earlier times were inherently inferior to ours today. If people today are wiser, as a corollary I am less likely to question bad choices made by 19th century characters – they simply couldn’t be expected to know any better.

Prometheus, on the other hand, is forced to shoulder the burdens that come with being about the future, a place created by people who have wisely used the intervening years to prepare for an alien encounter. I have the same prejudices as Bruce Willis’ character in Armageddon when he shouts in exasperation, “You’re NASA for cryin’ out loud, you put a man on the moon, you’re geniuses! You-you’re the guys that think this shit up! I’m sure you got a team of men sitting around somewhere right now just thinking shit up and somebody backing them up!”

Maybe that’s why I was far more judgmental about future space explorers rushing unzipped into situations I would know better than to touch with a 10-foot pole than I was about seeing our Civil War president chasing danger on a battlefield with a 3-foot axe.

Not Hunting for Votes Anymore

Tim Burton’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter opens June 22. If the just-released trailer shows the 16th president as an ax-wielding animated superhero, the imagery is so compelling I’m convinced this movie will be more than a mashup of Axe Cop and Van Helsing. 

(“Animated” because the trailer seems mainly composed of computer-generated action and effects although this is a live-action movie.)

In the unlikely event any of you don’t know the work:

Seth Grahame-Smith, who wrote the screenplay based on his book of the same name, chronicles Lincoln’s humble upbringing through his rise to the presidency, the Civil War, and the emancipation of slaves. All this is set against the backdrop of Honest Abe slaying evil spirits and seeking revenge upon the vampires who killed his mother when he was a young child.

Talk Vampires at NYRSF Readings on 10/4

Clay and Susan Griffith

Margot Adler

The NYRSF Readings on October 4 will feature three experts on the subject of vampires, Clay and Susan Griffith, and Margot Adler.

Clay and Susan Griffith are a married couple who have produced two novels in their latest series, Vampire Empire. The first, The Greyfriar, released by Pyr Books to critical acclaim, now has been followed by The Rift Walker

Margot Adler is a journalist and correspondent for National Public Radio. She wrote a piece for their website about the experience of reading 75 vampire novels (she’s now up to 184). Margot is the author of Drawing Down the Moon and Heretic’s Heart. Her grandfather, Alfred Adler, is the father of individual psychology.

The NYRSF Readings take place at The SoHo Gallery for Digital Art, 138 Sullivan Street, New York and begin at 7 p.m. 

The full press release follows the jump.

[Thanks to Jim Freund for the story.]

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Vampire Hunting Kits

The latest vampire craze has already inspired a backlash. You can find the early symptoms in the LA Weekly Style Council’s parody of antique vampire-killing kits:

There’s something so quaint and tidy about a kit for eradicating evil. Some of these vampire hunting kits are “authentic.” Some were assembled by artists aiming to capture the antique beauty of the things. Others are straight up hoaxes.

One box was supposedly a vampire-killing kit sold at London’s Great Exhibition in 1851, and recently auctioned by Sotheby’s for $12,000. The online comments were skeptical:

Laser printed labels and a cartridge firing revolver in 1851? FAKE!

The .22 cal cartridge boxes look like they are from the 1940’s too…

[Via James Hay.]