GENRE: Fantasy adventure
THE PITCH: After seeing his parents suffer at the hands (or fangs) of a local vampire, Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) dedicates his life to dispel the fast growing cadre of bloodsuckers. Mentored by the mysterious Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), Lincoln leads a dual life of abolitionist and vampire slayer all the way to the White House and beyond. Based off the book by Seth Grahame-Smith of the same name.
MONEY SHOT: Lincoln and his longtime loyal supporters, Joshua Speed (Jimmi Simpson), Will Johnson (Anthony Mackie) and Henry Sturgess attempt to deliver support to the Union soldiers at Gettysburg. While in route the train is overrun by a swarming mass of confederate vampires. What follows is an all out battle to keep its precious cargo safe. The details would be a spoiler but this hyperactive, action-intense scene leaves most vampire fight scenes pale in comparison.
BEST LINE: As Abraham ages, a vampire offers to turn him, transforming him into an immortal creature of the night. With a simple nod of respect and declination, Lincoln says, "Vampires are not the only things that live forever," referring to the legacy of his presidency and the freedom of the country.
PRETTY IN FINK: During a party, Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) comments after Joshua Speed jokes about Lincoln's less-than-handsome looks. Mary and Abe share a dance where she explains, " ... I think common people are the most beautiful in the world, that's why God made so many of them."
BODY COUNT: Its not called Vampire Hunter for nothing. While in his formidable prime, Lincoln kills 23 vampires while keeping the human carnage down to only 14 people. When the Civil War gets underway, the sheer number of bodies of both vampire and human alike become too numerous to quantify. But consider this, there were more than 620,000 casualties of the Civil War.
RE-VAMPED: Considering Seth Grahame-Smith's track record for creating new lore for the beasties he features in his novels, his take on vampires also adds a few new rules to nosferatu. In Smith's fictional timeline they can withstand sunlight - with an ample amount of sunscreen, bring people back from the dead - not just the dying, and vampires cannot kill one another - but can inflict bodily harm. Most vampires reside within the confederate territories due to an unending supply of their principal food source - slaves.
DUST BAWL: To add a vintage patina to the historic tale, flurries of dust particles are present through most of the scenes. Probably the most useless digital 3D effect I've ever seen in a film.
BOTTOM LINE: Aside from battling the incredulous subject matter of the country's 16th president pulling the nightshift to mow down night stalkers, Seth Grahame-Smith's adaptation of his own fictional work leaves much to be desired. Starting from the untimely death of Lincoln's mother, the story begins an arduous mash up of paralleled milestones as a politician and slayer highlighting key points in the future president's life. For example, the act of slavery isn't just immoral on principal, its also do to the fact that these shackled people are chattel led to vampire slaughter. On some levels, the meshed reality of Lincoln's tale works as friendships are forged that lead to somewhat plausible transitions from scene to scene but large chunks are omitted making the story uneven.
Director Timur Bekmambetov who is known for weaving dark, almost tactile supernatural action films envisioned a dusty, dank America as the backdrop for the film. Much detail is given to create a picturesque nostalgic look - skin tones are accentuated giving all characters pale features while blood is almost pitch in hue. The contrast adds an edgy punch to scenes where Abe battles vampires in swamps, basements and even cattle farms, but makes chatty tendons gaunt and unappealing. Common to Bekmambetov's works, back story montages are used to fill gaps in plot, but in this instance they are an unsightly overkill causing the film to lag even more.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter does a hatchet job defining the legend of the soon-to-be president, but it's the outrageous battles of a lanky, ax-wielding vigilante that ultimately makes this campy, rambling pseudo biopic entertaining.
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