Review: ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER

By Laurie Coker

Rating: C-

My friend is far more knowledgeable in history than I, but I do know a bit about Abe Lincoln and the very idea of him being a “vampire hunter” slays me – pun intended. I did not bother watching the trailer for ‘Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter,” after my sister did and appeared appalled at the whole idea. Still, I took my friend to the screening, hoping to, at the very least, get a good laugh. And laugh I did, but I will say I was never really bored.

We first meet Abe as a boy, when his father has a run in with a slave owner (and vampire) Jack Barts (Marton Csokas), a despicable man who later takes the life of Abe’s mother, leading the young man to seek vengeance, when he is older. After a failed attempt to kill Barts, he discovers the existence of blood-sucking creatures in the union states and a plan by their leader Adam) (Rupert Sewells) to take over the nation. I pause to say that the idea of a group in the darks recesses of our nation trying to suck the very life out so it makes me chuckle at the transparent irony. A stranger, Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), convinces the future president to go about his life and to kill vampires, so while working in small general store owned by Joshua Speed (Jimmi Simpson), he studies the law by day and hunts vampires by night, oh, and he woos the lovely Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).

I have to hand it to screenplay and novel writer Seth Grahame-Smith (a man with a wonderfully vivid imagination) for weaving his ridiculous tale of an ax wielding Lincoln and a band of blood-suckers carrying on when the union was at odds with itself. I might draw the line at the idea that the southern soldiers were lead into and accompanied by hundreds of vampires, who sought to take over the nation, giving new meaning to “the South will rise again.” Certainly Grahame-Smith and director Timur Bekmambetov make a real go at weaving the two lives of Lincoln, but totally at the expense of bastardizing history, making me wonder why they used Lincoln at all, why not just some random slayer, like Buffy.

The cast fits pretty well, I suppose, but Benjamin Walker is far shorter that the 16th president and efforts to make him appear taller and thinner than he really is comes mostly in dialogue and a few camera tricks, but ultimately, he doesn’t really look much like the man, that is until masterful make-up artists age him for the presidency scenes. Cooper is great as are Winstead, Anthony Mackey (Lincoln childhood friends and Simpson and of course, Sewell (as little as we seem him) seethes evil.

Bekmambetov does stun visually, but frankly, I think he and his special effect crew went a little far on the blood-letting. Darken shots and intriguing color play make even those more graphic scenes palatable, but wow! How many times can we watch blood fly and heads roll? Amidst all this violence, the film does touch on the themes of racism, nationhood and the concept of good versus evil, but hardly stays with any of them long enough. In fact, I kept expecting a clear point to the whole ordeal and I found none. The crew fails to flesh out the meaning or purpose of it all – if there is indeed one.

Some will like the R-rated Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, but I am not among them. Sure it didn’t bore me and I watched with intensity, but I kept coming back and was annoyed by the very concept of the film. I see no need to have Lincoln as a slayer, unless, that is, the idea is to make some political or social point, but that never really happens. It is a wild enough romp, but I can only give a C- to this one in my grade book. It simply did not do much for me in terms of solid entertainment.

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