Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – Revising Historical Horror into Bubblegum Horror

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter has a new trailer and I don’t know how to feel about it. I love a good historical revision fantasy as well as any so-called “geek,” and despite the threat of vampire-fatigue due to the over-saturation of vamp stories in recent popular culture, they do seem to have some staying power. However, I was curious about the source for this story and read the synopsis of the novel on which the film is based. I find the possible consequences of the transformation of the Civil War era setting troubling.

According to the synopsis, the Civil War is a result of southern vampires wanting to maintain the institution of slavery in order to have a easy food source, desiring to conquer the North and spread bondage to all the states, to make the slave food readily available. The trouble, for me, arises in transforming the issue of slavery from one regarding the humanity of a race of people and their systematic abduction and breeding for cheap labor through deprivation of rights enacted by human beings using ostensibly democratic legal means, to one performed by inhuman monsters. As the synopsis reads, “. . .to end slavery is to end the scourge of vampires,” shifting the moral impetus away from the evil of slavery and towards a supernatural evil.

So, I know this troubled feeling is only emerging from a trailer and a Wikipedia synopsis, so I may be off-base, but popular culture’s handling of racial issues and the history of slavery doesn’t give me much hope to be wrong. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter may be a fun film. Hell, it may even succeed at using the horror-fantasy trappings as a way to comment on how notions of race are inseparable from American history, but again, I doubt it. Instead, I imagine it being yet another small way in which heroic narratives of America’s past can go unchallenged and thus reinvigorated.

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