As the title suggests, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is completely bonkers. That’s not to say it doesn’t deliver the expected goods – vampires, stakes, lots of blood, gothic settings, the whole shebang – it’s just that this oddball genre of mashing monsters with great figures of literature, as in the Jane Austen books paired with zombies, or here with historical figures paired with vampires, is completely nuts.
Because of this, the film does exactly what it should do; it plays it straight without a moment of comic irony or satire. Apparently, in this revised edition of history, honest Abe – who could not tell a lie, so this has to be true – spent most of his adolescence training to kill creatures of the night and won the civil war because of firing silver bullets at the southerners, most of them vampires. Who knew?
When his mother is killed by a vampire, a young Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) seeks revenge. With help from a friend, Henry Sturges (Dominic Cooper) Abe learns how to swing a silver plated axe – his weapon of choice – against the night creatures and embarks on a lifelong journey of cutting vampires down wherever he finds them, which is in every corner of American society.
I guess we call them Night Creatures out of tradition, but these vampires appear to have no problem walking around in daylight, which I always feel is cheating when it comes to vampire lore, but at least, unlike the Twilight series which completely rewrote the rules to fit its own needs, here there are fangs and splashing blood a plenty. These vampires follow most of the other accepted vampire rules, like no reflection in mirrors, death from stakes or silver and extraordinary strength, but there are a couple of new ones thrown in for story-telling conveniences. One, of course, is the ability to walk in broad daylight without melting, and the other is that no vampire can kill another. There’s some kind of magical, physical block that won’t allow one vampire to raise a weapon against its own kind. Again, who knew?
Surprisingly, the production values are extremely high. There’s an epic quality to much of the film that actually elevates this nonsense to an unexpected level. Despite the fact that the whole plot is really howling at the moon – without the help of a werewolf – the writers and director Tim Bekmambetov have approached this stuff seriously. The civil war scenes are quite spectacular and look as though they’re a part of a genuine civil war epic, and the climactic, white knuckle battle on a train trying to cross a burning bridge with Abe slicing and dicing every vampire in sight while trying to stop the train from crashing is undeniably astonishing. Like the rest of the film, this whole sequence is insanely impossible, but astonishing in its execution, all the same.
Benjamin Walker makes an impressive Abraham Lincoln – at times he looks like young Liam Neeson with a fake nose – and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, last seen as the female lead in the recent remake of The Thing – makes a striking Mary Todd, later Mary Lincoln who would stir the blood of any man – or vampire, for that matter. The wide screen photography is nicely framed, but the color has a continual odd sepia toned look that appears even more drained with the annoying 3D glasses.
The timeline of the story is highly fragmented and jumps without explanation – it’s like reading a book only to discover several of the chapters have been torn from your copy – but considering how out-to-lunch the whole thing is, in the end it doesn’t really matter. Just go with it. In the meantime, I’ll get ready for the next mashup: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, where Jane Austin’s 19th century heroine fights an army of the undead, set for release next year. And who said Hollywood was running out of good ideas?
MPAA Rating: R Length: 105 minutes Overall Rating 7 (out of 10)