Movie Review: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Stars: Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Rufus Sewell, Mary Elizabeth Winstead

Rated R for violence throughout and brief sexuality, 105 minutes, Action/Horror/Fantasy

Compare to: Jonah Hex (2010), Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012),

Good ideas gone bad are even worse than all around bad ideas because at least the former had potential. Such is the tragic case with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter; a film that seems to be under the impression that a decent idea alone is enough to keep us entertained. It’s not. I could only imagine my friend’s pain, as he is a fan of the book this trash is based on and had a problem with the conveyance of the film than to an even greater degree than I.

As he stormed out like a small child, shoving the door as though it had offended him, I thought two things: Man, he needs to control himself better, and number two: Why didn’t they make this good? Everything was laid out for them. A better pace would have been the start of the road to recovery.

After witnessing the death of his mother at the hands of a vampire, a young Abraham Lincoln sets out to change the course of history by becoming a vampire hunter; a killer devoted to the slaying of all things undead. Times are tough, especially when vampires, led by Adam, their leader, who wants to take over the United States in the Civil War and keeps slaves in their reach- a never-ending food source. Telling the “true” story of Abraham Lincoln and his fight to save America from more than just succeeding states.

Seth Grahame-Smith, the author of the book, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is actually the screenwriter for the film as well. This is surprising since the author of the book and writer of the script being one and the same often times has positive effects. Interview with a Vampire (1994), Jaws (1975), and The Godfather (1974), all share this trait and their movies have had an everlasting effect. Not that it’s fair to immediately compare this to cinema classics, only to say that one would think that this situation should have turned out better. Much better.

Within the first ten minutes, we were already watching a Lincoln in his twenties (I think) being trained to kill the vampire that murdered his mother when he was a child. Only moments earlier, we were watching him as a child. To say that this movie feels rushed is like saying the ocean is “kinda big.”  It seems like it was edited by a little kid, as the character’s mouths aren’t moving in sync with what they’re saying. Glaring mistakes jumped out at me as if that were the point of the scene.

I’m not going to comment on how closely the movie followed the book, as I haven’t read it and don’t think it has too much to do with how good a movie is on its own. Although I do feel the need to point out to any fans who’d like to watch this that the fan that I watched it with seemed to think the only similarities between this movie and the book was that Abraham Lincoln is in both. I could name details I’ve since looked up but I’ll end it here.

Most of the action seems to consist of quick shots of an axe, Lincoln, or sometimes both spinning around before connecting with his enemy. And they don’t get tired of showing it. As for the vampires, well thanks to 3D, it seems their entrance shots are mostly comprised of their sneering and wide-open mouths getting right into our face. After about the eighth time they showed this, I was ready for a new angle.

Director Timur Bekmambetov seems to be okay with stamping his name as producer onto any flop that comes his way (The Darkest Hour, Apollo 18, 2010), but as far as directing goes, I hadn’t been sure what I thought of him. I’d seen the Nightwatch Trilogy and Wanted (2008), both of which were decent efforts, but it wasn’t until Vampire Hunter I’ve started to think he might have reached his high point in ’08. I hate to sound as though I’m attacking Bekmambetov personally, but it doesn’t seem as though he has much more to offer than a uniquely stylized fight scene. The axe flipping is cool, as Lincoln dispatches creatures like a master chef cooks his meal, but the camera work is so shoddy and the sequences so quick, there’s really not much to enjoy.

Yet even when we’re given more than a few seconds of this violent artistry, by that point I didn’t even care. Originally I’d heard the final cut was going to be around three hours, which led me to believe that I could actually place some faith in the film. I was misled however, to the hour and forty minutes it turned out to be but then even that was too long, as it seems the editor was Sonic the Hedgehog, jumping from scene to scene as if their only viewers would be seven years old.

And that’s who I can imagine enjoying this film. There’s some forced drama to make you think you’re watching a serious action movie but it’s laughable at best. Mary Elizabeth Winstead appears as Mary Todd Lincoln, Abe’s acquaintance, then date, then wife. This all happens in about five minutes and I’m not joking.

When we first meet Mary, she’s with another man (Alan Tudyk), who is repeatedly shown to be someone of importance to the story, his name and prominence repeatedly mentioned. The following scene has the couple at a party, Mary asking Abe to dance even with her man there. Okay, I can deal with that. The next scene (about a minute later) deals with Lincoln and Mary having a picnic by the creek, Abe attempting to bare his soul and tell Mary about his duties as a vampire hunter. Tudyk’s character not even mentioned in a line because it seems in Bekmambetov’s mind, it’s been time to move on.

Oh, and don’t think Mary isn’t pissed off when she reads Abe’s journal about thirty years later. She’s mad because (get this) Lincoln never told her he was a vampire hunter. I mean, I remembered their first date pretty well five minutes earlier when he told her, but whatever. This also conflicts with the fact that right after telling her he’s a slayer, he refuses to kiss her because he can’t let her into his life, for fear of those who might hurt her to get to him. Do you see a problem with this? Sidenote: A vampire already followed them home anyway. DUUUUH…

This movie is one of those poser kids in school that wore all the right clothes, but never knew the bands on his own shirt. If you and your buddies decide on a movie this weekend, make it Brave, or even Seeking a Friend at the End of the World (Haven’t seen it, expect a review soon. It’s gotta be better than this). If you’re a fan of the book and/or just have to see it for yourself anyway, I understand because I’m the same way, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. It was the “honest” thing to do. Get it? Get it?? Okay, I’m done.

Grade: D

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2 Responses to “Movie Review: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”

  1. Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter? I knew my history teacher was full of shit

    • Taylor Says:

      Yeah, Hollywood has this way of showing us the truth just when we think we’re starting to know everything. Show-offs!

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