On opening day, we went to see the new movie, Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. It’s definitely our family’s most anticipated movie of the summer.
(That’s the movie poster. Me, I prefer the hardcover image below.)
Pretty much my whole family has read this book, a historical fiction mash-up. (I’m currently re-reading it.) The book is actually very historically accurate – I mean, if you take out the whole vampire angle. But for instance, I never knew that Stephen Douglas had wooed Mary Todd, and that really is an important backstory to the Lincoln-Douglas debates. There are a lot of other instances like that in the book that shows Seth Grahame-Smith, the author, had really done his homework. The book is written in a literary nonfiction style, where friendly vampire Henry gives Lincoln’s journals to a modern-day struggling author, and this book is his work. It’s understandable that all of that made the cutting room floor for the movie, though (the screenplay was also written by Grahame-Smith).
Because the screenplay was written by the author, it’s disappointing to those of us who loved the book that the movie is so different. I mean, I read reviews that complain about the ridiculous premise of the movie and I want to say, “Did you even read the book?” The premise is silly on its face, sure, but the book really brings you in and makes you a believer. But as someone who loved the book, I, too, am disappointed. It’s like Grahame-Smith took the very basic outline of his book – 19th century America was overrun by vampires, and Abraham Lincoln was determined to stop them – and wrote a completely different story.
I understand that movies are different than the books they are based on. But I don’t see why he couldn’t have had the beginning be the same. Thomas Lincoln makes a deal with the devil (specifically, Jack Barts) that he couldn’t fulfill, and Barts takes Nancy Lincoln’s life in payment. Abe knows nothing of this, but years later, Thomas finally tells him. Abe lures Barts to their homestead, where he is waiting. Abe kills Barts:
Thomas stood aghast. “Look what you’ve done,” he said after a sickened silence. “You’ve killed us.”
“On the contrary . . . I’ve killed him.”
“More will come.”
Abe had already begun to walk away.
“Then I shall need more stakes.”
How could you not write the entire movie around that perfect scene?
After I got over the disappointment at the movie being completely different than the book, I was able to enjoy the movie. A bit gory – I don’t usually watch rated R movies – but it was enjoyable and I liked the plot twists.
And really – when is a movie better than (or even as good as) the book?