Movie Review: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Austin360.com | Austin American-Statesman
Just when you thought the vampire craze might be waning, this happens.
Abraham Lincoln and the undead. Now we've seen it all. Or one hopes so, at least.
For the record, Abraham Lincoln never hunted vampires. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, the question is why did writer Seth Grahame-Smith (the scribe behind "Dark Shadows" and the upcoming "Beetlejuice 2") insert the 16th president into this genre?
The simple answers are that, one, it's kind of funny to think of Honest Abe hunting vampires, and, two, most of the audience already has a relationship with the protagonist of "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter."
One of the most highly regarded presidents in U.S. history, Lincoln as a character of history is known for his virtue and modest background. He's inherently easy to root for, and everybody wants him to win. His predicament is funny and mildly ironic, like watching Noah have to deal with unruly pets on a cross-country drive.
So when young Abe's mother is killed by a vampire, we all have his back as he sets forth to become a master vampire slayer and avenge his mother's death.
Lincoln's friend Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper) takes the future president under his wing, and in a classic training montage teaches the fresh-faced Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) how to identify vampires and, more importantly, how to wield an ax. Walker shows immense twirling skill with his weapon and even gives depth and humanity to his character when none would be required for such a frivolous romp.
But being a vampire hunter is a full-time job that leaves no room for love or extracurricular activities. So when Lincoln meets the gorgeous Mary Todd, he must make a choice: love or revenge. He chooses the former but can't escape his past.
After he takes office, it becomes clear that an army of vampires is tempting to take control of the union. It is up to Lincoln to determine whether the United States becomes a country of men or mutants. The vampires serve as an odd and cumbersome metaphor for America's legacy of slavery.
With childhood friend Will Johnson (Anthony Mackie) at his side, Lincoln leads the nation into a bloody civil war with the vampires. At stake? Only the future of the entire country.
Kazakh film director Timur Bekmambetov had great international success (less so in the States) with vampire films "Night Watch" (2004) and "Day Watch" (2006), and his familiarity with the blood-suckers is on display here. He presents them not as dark romantics but as evil and grotesque creatures of the night with supernatural powers.
The violence is rendered in comic-book level violence, as heads go flying, arteries spew fountains of blood and the vampires' teeth appear like jagged stalactites of death.
The entire film feels like an excuse to use 3-D gimmickry in every conceivable way, but there is an odd escapist joy about "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter." The film borders on camp then scares the heck out of you with a jolt. But the odd historical context and sloppy slave-vampire metaphor tend to confuse.
From the cheap antebellum sets to the mish-mash of odd 19th-century accents, nothing about the film feels real. But that is the point. After all, Abe was a lawyer and commander in chief. Not a vampire hunter. Or was he?