Movie Reviews

‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ – Bloody but toothless

By Travis WongMovies - 05 July 2012 10:13 AM | Updated 10:32 AM

‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ – Bloody but toothless

Honest Abe is ready to kick vampire butt

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Rating: 2 stars

If they awarded an Oscar for Best Title, ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ would be a nominee. A pity that the rest of the movie is pretty sucky.

In this revisionist take on American history, Honest Abe, besides being POTUS and The Great Emancipator, had a sideline fighting bloodsuckers. It all starts off with Lincoln’s mum getting killed by a vampire. Years later and played by Benjamin Walker, he meets vampire foe Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper) who gives him advice on how to defeat the bloodsuckers. Abe also takes up his weapon, a silver axe, to battle the undead. Sturgess’ advice on becoming a vampire slayer? Avoid having friends or getting hitched.

Of course, Lincoln doesn’t take that piece of advice. He develops friendships and ends up marrying Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstedt). In the meantime, his vampire slaying exploits are noticed by Adam (Rufus Sewell), the leader of the Vampire Nation. Adam lives in the South and preys on black slaves, and is aided by his sister Vadoma (Erin Wasson). The two eventually have a showdown against the backdrop of the Civil War.

Abe's sliver tipped axe is the ultimate lethal weapon

Directed by Russian director Timur Bekmambetov, best known for ‘Nightwatch’ and ‘Daywatch’, the film bears many of his love for over-the-top action scenes, with plenty of Matrix-like slo-mo and ballet like action choreography. Some of the sequences just flash by a little too quickly, though it’s not too hard to catch what exactly is going on.

The main problem is that Bekmambetov plays things pretty seriously, without much sense of irony or even fun. The latter half of the film is particularly ponderous, after Lincoln puts away his axe to focus on his political career, and the scenes where he gives some of his important speeches are slotted in but have little impact.

The battle of Gettysburgh and Lincoln’s final showdown with Adam, which takes up the last part of the movie, is also full of plot holes. Adam sends in his vampires to help the south after a disastrous battle on the first day of the battle, and Lincoln somehow is able to come up with a plan to destroy them and deploy his solution in an impossible short span of time.

Vampire honchos Adam and Vadoma enjoying their shortlived victory

Furthermore, the film, based on the book by author and scriptwriter Seth Grahame-Smith, also known for writing ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’, never seems quite sure whether it is a piece of forgotten history or an alternate reality. The vampires make an appearance on the battlefield and are observed by a huge bunch of people, but still considered to be a myth by the end of the film.

Walker is competent as the axe-wielding POTUS, but it’s Cooper who seems to be having the most fun as Sturgess, whose real nature isn’t too hard to guess. 

Admittedly, Grahame-Smith’s ideas are often clever, particularly in how they combine facets of Lincoln’s life with this dreamed-up contrivance of the President as vampire killer, but it comes across as an idea that sounds fun for about five minutes. If only, it had the sense of humour to match the silliness of the whole concept, which would definitely have given this film much needed bite.

‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ opens in theatres 5 July, 2012

Travis Wong is a film loving geek who got his start from frequenting video shops in JB. He frequented movie theaters more often than school, and received his cinematic epiphany when he watched 'Taxi Driver'. While not driving a cab, he haunts DVD shops, and he currently has the largest remaining collection of VHS tapes and Laserdiscs in the country.