Director: Timur Berkmambetov
Starring: Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell.
Written by: Seth Grahame-Smith (based on his book)
Running time: 105 mins
Release date: 20th June 2012
What is your first reaction when you hear the title Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter? Mine was a laughably ludicrous title that could be a fun tongue-in-cheek mix that has one of America’s most loved presidents taking on the undead. What you get instead is a completely straight mix that has one of America’s most loved presidents taking on the undead. And it just doesn’t work!
A young Abraham Lincoln has had hatred boiling up in his heart after watching his mother died. He wants the man who killed her, dead. The mysterious Englishman Henry Strugess takes Lincoln under his wing and teaches him that vengeance must take time and that he is dealing not with a human but a vampire and there are hundreds of them. So armed with an axe, Lincoln is trained in ways of disposing the creatures and sent to Springfield, where he befriends a store owner, falls in love with the beautiful Mary and gets to put his training to good use against a host of blood-suckers. It’s just not enough, so he is allowed to take on his nemesis as long as he can go for the top vampire, Adam, who dreams of taking over the world. At the same time, Lincoln wants to free the slaves and politics start to take over his life.
Many people say that they learnt about history through the movies, even if some of them are a little inaccurate. I fear for a younger generation who might actually believe this is the real story of Honest Abe because the cast certainly believed everything. It lacks the one element that you would have expected to see…a sense of humour. It’s played so straight, like everything really happened.
Director Timur Berkmambetov is obviously a lover of visuals. His Day Watch/Night Watch films are impressively exciting on the eye. Even his first Hollywood movie, Wanted, as silly as it was, had plenty to enjoy. Here he throws everything he can at the screen that could be interesting to watch but with the lazy 3D and somewhat below-par CGI (none more so noticeable than the stampede scene where Lincoln chases his vampire foe through a herd of horses) even they are uninvolving. A succession of slo-mo fight sequences and axe-wielding set pieces cannot lift the po-faced dullness of the rest of the film.
Benjamin Walker, looking like a young Liam Neeson, does a fine job as the would-be leader but even he is forced to deliver dialogue without a hint of wit. Just one knowing wink at the audience would have been enough, as if he knows this is ridiculous but go with it. Dominic Cooper pops up every so often to offer a word of wisdom but isn’t allowed to develop any real character as Henry, while fellow Brit Rufus Sewell gets to play pantomime villain as chief vampire, Adam, with his sinister whispering voice.
As the film trudges on, and it really feels like a long haul, towards a somewhat twisted view of history, that the American Civil War was a battle between humans and vampires (!) you find yourself shaking your head that this could have even got pass the green light, let alone get released as a Summer blockbuster. I am sure that fans of Seth Grahame-Smith’s book (he also wrote the screenplay) will stand up and defend the film but with such a title, I wanted nonsense, I wanted fun, I wanted the kind of rubbish that Snakes on a Plane gave us. Instead I got a history lesson that wasn’t, played without a smirk or a glint. A film that definitely doesn’t live up to its title! In a season of pretty awful films, this is the worst.