ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER
**1/2 (out of 5)
June 22, 2012
Benjamin Walker as ABRAHAM LINCOLN
Dominic Cooper as HENRY STURGESS
Anthony Mackie as WILL JOHNSON
Mary Elizabeth Winstead as MARY TODD LINCOLN
Rufus Sewell as ADAM
Marton Csokas as JACK BARTS
Jimmi Simpson as JOSUA SPEED
Directed by: Timur Bekmambetov
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
If you’re going into the film “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” and expecting brilliant filmmaking, cogent storytelling or a serious examination of American history, you’re an idiot. It’s called “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” for crying out loud. It’s not meant to be taken seriously.
Personally, I have a soft spot for these kinds of movies, the modern-day B-movie with a big budget but its tongue stuck firmly in its cheek. It is for this reason that I can watch oodles of Syfy Original Movies from Roger Corman and The Asylum and enjoy them. They’re modern day pulp fiction, and they can be a lot of fun.
“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” is exactly that kind of film, so ridiculous it can be fun to watch. As the title suggests, the film follows a young Abraham Lincoln through his early days and into his presidency as he is taught to battle the undead. The vampires play key roles in the events of his life and history, often to ridiculous ends.
Of course, what makes this film different from the weekly dose of schlock on Syfy is its budget and director. With a multimillion dollar price tag and director Timur Bekmambetov, who was in charge of such hits as “Night Watch” and “Wanted,” there’s a lot more expectation. In this sense, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” doesn’t quite meet all those expectations. However, when it does, it’s a hoot.
The positives of the film include some excellent action moments, featuring our sixteenth president chopping through vampires with an axe. It’s over-the-top silliness at its best. With 19th century wood that always seems to violently explode upon impact and villains that throw horses as weapons, the battle sequences are really quite hilarious.
Unfortunately, it’s the connective tissue of this film and not the silly vampire killing sequences where it loses points. As goofy as the film is, it seems that lead Benjamin Walker never was told this movie was a lark. There are some serious miscast characters, including the svelte and pretty Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Mary Todd Lincoln. I could have forgiven this if, when the movie fast-forwards to Lincoln in his 50s, she were replaced with Roseanne Barr, but that wasn’t in the cards.
Other problematic moments include a heavy-handed message about abolition and slavery (which seems to ignore critical historical elements like the fact that the Emancipation Proclamation was able to be revoked at will after the Civil War and it didn’t free any slaves in the border states). It’s easy and trite to portray Lincoln as a die-hard abolitionist rather than a career politician, manipulating the hot button issues of the day.
Yes, yes, I know. The movie’s called “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.” I’m thinking too hard. As tempting as it is to look up Lincoln’s history on Wikipedia after seeing this film, it’s a moot point because it’s such a silly premise to begin with, even when the film makes vampires forever tied to historical events as the Civil War, the institution of slavery, the 1860 election, Lincoln’s family tragedies and the Battle of Gettysburg.
Finally, from a filmmaking perspective, the movie has some serious wrinkles. It suffers from jarring and choppy editing and some horribly stilted dialogue. You expect this film Syfy, but not from a big-budget theatrical release.
Still, I enjoyed watching it, and I laughed through much of the movie… probably more than I should have. Give it ten or twenty years, and it’ll be a forgotten gem that buddies will watch on “bad movie night” and howl with laughter. But for today, I’d recommend seeing it in a theater that serves alcohol because it’s a flick that gets better the more you’ve had to drink.