Just Add Vampires

31 July 2012 | 4:02 pm | Guy Davis

It takes a special kind of person to combine Abraham Lincoln and vampires. Guy Davis chats to that person, Seth Grahame-Smith.

The story of Abraham Lincoln, America's 16th president and arguably one of its greatest ever leaders? Well, it's kind of a superhero story when you get right down to it. Here was someone who was born into poverty and who received little to no formal education. He was dealt a bad hand by fate, suffering tragedy and loss at various stages throughout his life. But despite these obstacles, he was a self-made, self-taught man who not only rose to the most powerful position in the United States but led the land through a harrowing civil war and was instrumental in the abolition of slavery.

Oh, and he also hunted and killed vampires.

Okay, that last part is open to debate. But if you believe Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, a gaudy and genuinely entertaining new action-horror-thriller opening in cinemas this week (see it in 3D!), Honest Abe was not only an outstanding lawyer, orator and politician but also a dab hand at beheading bloodsuckers with a silver-edged axe.

Directed by Wanted's Timur Bekmambetov and starring talented stage actor Benjamin Walker in the title role, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (c'mon, it's a title that begs to repeated in full over and over) is really the brainchild of author and screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith, who had made a healthy career out of gruesome, action-packed yarns that mash up horror, literature and history. Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, which adds the walking dead to Jane Austen's classic novel? Yeah, that's one of his.

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Grahame-Smith was touring the US promoting that title in 2009 when inspiration struck. “It was the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth,” he recalls. “And it seemed that everywhere I went, every bookstore I went into, there were two displays in the front: an Abraham Lincoln biography display table and then next to it was Twilight.”

Combining the two “seemed so obvious to me,” says the author, and his subsequent research into Lincoln revealed a life rich in dramatic incident and a man abundant in character and ability. “So it seemed natural to add vampires to it,” he laughs.

Grahame-Smith is well aware that something titled Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter could well be regarded as a bit of a piss-take. But the story, while not without humour, takes its vamp-vanquishing business seriously. “The joke ends at the title,” he says. “You come to the cinema, you know you are seeing a movie called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. So, you know, what we try to do is then take that and make it the most fun, satisfying product we can to really just light a fire under people and do something different.

“One of the things I'm proud of is that it's not a sequel, it's not a remake, it's not based on a board game or a toy. It is a summer movie that is just so weirdly and wonderfully its own different thing. I hope that people will get the message, that we understand how insane the concept is. But we are doing it 150 per cent. We are doing it unflinchingly and unapologetically. And if you want to go to the cinema and have a kick-arse time, watching America's sixteenth president beat the shit out of some vampires, then this is the movie you've been waiting for.”

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is in cinemas nationally.