Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is surprisingly boring. A sprawling, ridiculous, disjointed blast of violence, black blood and axe-swinging madness. It certainly has its moments of awesomeness, but it never reaches the heights of entertainment the title and premise suggests and eventually becomes a repetitive Axe vs. Vampire slayathon. Wait for the DVD… to be on sale. For £4.
For those who didn’t listen during history class, Abraham Lincoln is the 16th president of the United States of America and is responsible for starting the American Civil War in an attempt to free all the slaves. But Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter begins when ‘honest Abe’ was just a wee nipper, where he witnesses local slave-owner Jack Barts (Marton Csokas) murder his mother.
Setting off on a lifelong quest for revenge, Abraham finally confronts Barts and shoots him in the face. BLAM! Bullet in the eyeball. Unfortunately for Abraham, this evil slaver is also a VAMPIRE.
Luckily Abraham is saved by Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), who immediately enlists him on a quest to KILL ALL VAMPIRES. Thus begins Abraham Lincoln’s hidden quest to eradicate the vampire plague that is sweeping 17th Century America. Which he does with a silver-tipped axe and – occasionally – an army.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is clearly a Timur Bekmambetov movie, with shades of Wanted, Night Watch and Day Watch throughout, displayed in overly-kinetic, fast-paced action scenes which amaze and confuse in equal measure.
Much like Bekmambetov’s previous work Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter suffers from the Sucker Punch effect; rapid, disjointed set-pieces slapped together with reasonable CGI that simply becomes boring once you realize you’re watching cartoons instead of people. The steam-train set-piece is spectacular but utterly absurd and a fight that takes place on TOP of a horse stampede is 99% CGI and 100% ridiculous.
I never wandered into Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter expecting a JFK or Frost / Nixon-style historical drama, but I had expected to be more entertained. Sure, it was occasionally a blast and visually bonkers, but it lacked a self-knowing sense of fun that would’ve lifted this above lacklustre B Movie territory. There is no explanation as to why Abraham Lincoln is a superhuman, for example, or what the hell Alan Tudyk’s character was even doing in the film…
You could perhaps blame the source material for all of this, but scriptwriter Seth Grahame-Smith also penned the book of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter! He is also responsible for writing Tim Burton’s latest underwhelming Johnny Depp-vehicle Dark Shadows. Disturbingly Grahame-Smith is also on-board to write Beetlejuice 2, so I’m praying he’s learnt from his previous mistakes.
People will certainly love some moments Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (there is a lot of VIOLENCE!) but also be left baffled by others. The mythos (or ‘rules’) of the vampires are also a little disjointed and confused; a vampire cannot kill another vampire (despite beating the shit out of each other all the damn time), they’ve adapted to sunlight (why not?!), can be killed by silver bullets / forks / cannonballs, become invisible (of course!) and one neck bite can turn someone into a vampire (like a werewolf!) unless they’re sucking your blood. Or you’re Abraham Lincoln’s mum. Or something. It’s really, genuinely confusing. Because this mythos wasn’t effectively explored it made the film really difficult to understand – and it’s not a confusing premise! – so you never really get a sense of their created reality.
Overall Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is surprisingly mediocre. The CGI is pretty terrible, the aging make-up hilariously bad (50 year old Anthony Mackie is basically Anthony Mackie with some grey hair!) and the performances all lack any real effort. Benjamin Walker is decent-enough as Abraham Lincoln, but there are throwaway performances from Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell and the horrendously underused Alan Tudyk.
If Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter had been done on a smaller budget, with someone like Nathan Fillion as Abraham Lincoln, then this could’ve been epic. Instead it’s merely a meandering, fast, frenzied and confused CGI mess. Not a hateful film but certainly not worthy of a cinema visit.
Please note: I didn’t see it in 3D because I think it’s a pointless gimmick that only distracts and detracts from the quality of a product. I also don’t want to spend another £2 on crap plastic glasses.