The craziest thing about this movie is the film doesn’t live up to the campiness conveyed by the title. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is so deadly serious that it should be ashamed of itself. It’s as if The History Channel morphed into a bad action movie with the now standard Matrix-like effects. Sure there’s blood spraying and wild wire-work fight choreography. But this kung fu kickery attributed to an influential historical figure is a trend that has got to stop. How far will Hollywood take this trend of putting real people in completely farfetched scenarios á la the recent Raven where Edgar Allan Poe helped fight crime?
In case you haven’t guessed, this director Timur Bekmambetov would like you to believe (really believe) that while Honest Abe (Benjamin Walker) was out there learning the law and stumping for politics he was also hacking, slicing and dicing evil bloodsuckers.
Lincoln writes in his diary that his mom was killed by a vampire and he swears revenge. Luckily an anti-vampire guardian angel (Dominic Cooper) mentors him in an Obi-Wan Kenobi meets Karate Kid and True Blood kind of way. We are treated to martial arts training including an axe spinning montage and nuggets of wisdom dished out like “Real power comes from truth, not hatred.”
We get a boring rendition of Lincoln’s life with all the elementary school trimmings including meeting wife Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead—hot off The Thing remake) the Lincoln/Douglass debates, slavery, his presidency, The Civil War and finally the ending of Mary beckoning “Come Abraham, we’ll be late for the theater.”
While Abe is struggling with his dark secret of being a fierce killer of dark undead entities, the filmmakers are busy trying to intertwine slave trading with vampire evil. It’s as if they decided to spruce up Redford’s equally lifeless tale of Lincoln’s assassination (The Conspirator) by adding the juicy concept that perhaps there was more than meets the gouged-out eye.
Then there’s the vampire treatment, which stretches the imagination to the snapping point.
Without any explanation, vampire hunting in this movie involves killing not by staking the heart, but decapitation. Firewood-splitting Abe goes on an axe-wielding mission to rid the world of vampires, one by one or sometimes ten by ten. The legend of Paul Bunyan and the Blue Ox is more believable. Plus anyone who knows anything about vampire lore will be aghast at the liberties taken with legend. Like why the hell do they survive in daylight and why on earth would they ride horses around when they can easily fly in fast motion wherever they want?
Even more ludicrous, is the use of weird sepia tones and washed out colors in an effort to make the film appear more historical. This flick plays out all wrong. Culminating in Gettysburg Abe thinks it’s pulling out all the stops by cramming Roadrunner cartoons, Buster Keaton antics and good old fashioned serial cliff hangers into one movie.
As it progresses this movie indulges in absurdity. Just when I say to myself, at least they’re not depicting the South as a bunch of bloodthirsty bloodsucking ghouls, bam there are Confederate Soldiers baring bloody fangs.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a highly original idea that falls prey to unoriginal conventions. Producer Tim Burton and director Bekmambetov clearly had a vision of what they wanted to convey but somehow the delivery is overwrought with loopholes and mishaps. Far too serious for its own good, this movie screams out for cheesy laughs of which it is total devoid. So much for making history.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
1 1/2 Stars
Starring Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Rufus Sewell, Anthony Mackie,
Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Directed by Timur Bekmambetov