Action Movies, by Mike Richardson, 21 August 2012

Director: Timur Bekmambetov

Stars: Benjamin Walker, Rufus Sewell and Dominic Cooper

Country: USA

Runtime: 105 min

Release Date:

Language: English

As titles go, Abraham Lincoln Vampire hunter is a stone cold killer, however it’s no sure winner, translating a brilliantly ridiculous idea to the big screen. Still Abe the vampire slayer is by no means the worse 105 minutes hours of cinema you could invest in. Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter is only a 15 certificate which probably says more about the hunt for a wider audience than for a lack of conviction when it comes to lopping off undead heads or chopping down bloodsuckers.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

In case the title should confuse you, here’s a couple of filmic facts; the Abraham Lincoln of Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter is the one and same Abraham Lincoln of Gettysburg and Washington monuments, but the audience is treated to a full on “What if…” that re-imagines the president with a part-time job as a vanquisher of nosferatu.
Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter (aka ALVH) is adapted by screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith (author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) from his own novel, and sees motivated young Mr. Lincoln to wreak revenge on the bloodsuckers who killed his mother while also ending slavery as a White House superhero. Instead of Batman’s cowl or Superman’s cape we get Abe’s facial hair-and stovepipe hat as he sends a legion of vamps back to hell with a silver edged axe, his skills honed splitting rails.

The excuse for set pieces (aka story) offers up an alternate historical account straight from Abe’s secret diary, covering both his political – as well as supernatural machinations and struggles. The quest for vengeance kicks off with the death of his mother at the fangs of local businessman/vampire Jack Barts (Marton Csokas). As in all good “holly origins of” superhero stories Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) sets out to avenge his dear sweet mother and happens upon Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper) – who trains master Abe in the art of vampire hunting and overly choreographed axe wielding. Things are knocked up a serious notch when vampire king Adam (Rufus Sewell) makes an alliance with (those darn) confederate separatists, meaning Lincoln’s beloved American and personal loved ones are threatened – forcing POTUS #16 to axe up and get busy outside of the senate floor.
There is a “serious” point hidden in this pantomime that sees Abe the abolitionists fighting against a culture where slavery turns people into mere meat, but fear not this, is no Spike Lee joint of Martin Luther King the Black Avenger, this is 100% fun and nonsense, and the “serious” overtones are somewhat wasted in a world where slavery is considered “wrong”.

Accompanying (the gleefully ludicrous) premise we get served a with intriguing alt-history tie-ins but the wildly uneven and episodic script lacks the shameless self-awareness of Buffy, full of bottle-top shallow characters and several over-the-top set pieces, a shame when the title has already encouraged everyone to leave awareness (and certain standards) at the theatre door and set their receiver to gas mark fun.

The (not quite effective) narrative hints at a “sombre” point hiding beneath the carnival of the absurd, but them again narrative cohesion has never been Russian-Kazakh director Timur Bekmambetov’s strong suite (remember the story in Wanted? No; me neither). This does mean that the film comes across as an overlong trailer (in 3D!) with explosive digital FX KAPOOWS; the stampede punch-up, a train on a burning bridge, and countless slo-mo, sub-Matrix fight scenes.

This history bears no resemblance to John Ford’s Young Mr. Lincoln, but if you want rare steak related thrills and undead blood spills, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter is well worth the price of admission. If you just want to see a Lincoln memorial where Honest Abe fights to free America from slavery (look to Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln starring Daniel Day-Lewis) but there’s always room for vampires in historical cinema.
It’s not a perfect film, but it a fun film and this monster mash up has me longing for Richard Nixon Werewolf Slayer, Lyndon B Johnson Versus the Mummy and JFK v A v P while Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies still languished in the pit of pre-production limbo.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Trailer

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