[Content note for discussion of narratives surrounding slavery]
I went to see this movie pretty much based on the premise that both Abraham Lincoln and Vampire Hunters are pretty cool. What could go wrong? *Spoiler* Everything could go wrong. I am calling this a reading rather than a review because I want to go into depth about some of the issues that I saw. My review can be summed up as : It was shit. Do not pay money to watch it. I give it minus eleventy million stars. You get the drift.
Aside from being a cheesy action movie with zero character development and enough plot holes to make a sieve, there were some other more sinister aspects to it.
Firstly the movie uses the premise of slavery in the USA being driven by vampires wanting a steady supply of tasty human snacks. This presents slave owners as being inhuman monsters. I find this to be deeply problematic. Portraying slave owners as monsters who are not human helps to distance us from the reality of slavery. Slavery was not committed by mythical creatures. It was committed by ordinary people just like you and me. While the fact that the intolerable atrocities of slavery were committed by regular human beings may be difficult to come to terms with, it is important that we do acknowledge this. You might argue that this is just a movie and it is not meant to be taken seriously. However glossing over slavery is something that is done routinely in the American context. There is a often an outright refusal to take responsibility for the effects of slavery. So portraying slave owners as vampires diminishes a serious tragedy of humanity and it allows people to distance themselves from it. This is something which I feel is deeply problematic. People already want to believe that slavery was an evil committed by someone (or something) else, this movie taps into those desires and gives them a voice.
It gets worse. At one point one of the slave owning vampires talks about how slavery is nothing new. He says many cultures In doing so he basically lists all the reasons slavery apologists do for claiming that slavery in the USA was not really that bad. Slavery was practiced by other cultures, the African’s sold their own people into slavery, blah blah blah. Those things might be true but they do not in any way, shape, or form, act as justification for the USian slave trade. Nor do they provide justification for its minimisation in national discourse.
Perhaps the most telling thing however, was the fact that within the context of this story Abraham Lincoln was motivated to end slavery, not because it was a human tragedy, not because it was the right thing to do, but because he needed to end the empire of the evil undead in the USA. Way to make freeing slaves have nothing to do with actual slaves.
This movie speaks of a nation that wants to move beyond the tragedies of the past by ignoring them and distancing them from the present day, rather than addressing them in a responsible manner. It is a travesty. It is not surprising to me that this movie got made, but it is deeply saddening that it handles such serious issues in such a callous way.