Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Review: Needs More Hatchet

Posted by on July 8, 2012 at 8:52 am

Dividing a country with an election, dividing vampires with a hatchet.

Normally we’d give a movie like this a midnight release treatment, but for whatever reason, it slipped through our grubby paws. To be honest, if I don’t get to a film early on, chances are I’ll never catch it in theaters. I’d known about Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter since the book was on shelves, but as the trailers would blare before other films, it appears it’s finally reaching a mainstream audience. “They seriously made a movie called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter?” they say. It sounds like the perfect idea: take one of our country’s most historically influential president, a quiet, introverted guy with few friends, and turn that sad sap of a back story into a chronicle about how he avenges the death of his mother and becomes a highly-skilled vampire hunter! If only it worked…

The biggest issue one can have in drafting fiction around historical events is that your side of the story is too interesting for the source. Stephen King ran into this problem last year with 11/22/63 in which a high school teacher volunteers years of his life to prevent the Kennedy assassination. King built an incredible time travel mechanic, fleshed out tons of interesting characters, built a believable romance, and then stitched it to a tragically uninteresting, yet historically accurate, second half in which he stalks Lee Harvey Oswald. Little can be said about Abraham Lincoln as a person because history remembers him for what what he did, rather than who he was. As such, despite Benjamin Walker’s honest portrayal, the character is hollow. We respect him for what he will become, for his top hat, for his generous heart, rather than as a protagonist who stands on his own merits. As a result, other characters seem to walk over him when he isn’t cutting up vampires Matrix-style.

In the first half, he Yodas up under the tutelage of Henry, a vampire against their cause who discovers Abraham drunk on a bar, seething with revenge. He doesn’t kill his mother’s murderer that night, but Henry shows him the ways of the Force how to kill vampires through the strength of truth. Against Henry’s best advice, he falls in love with Mary Winstead, who will get me into most any horror film, and exposes his future family to danger. After an inconclusive confrontation with Adam, the mythical father of all vampires, Abraham Lincoln decides to take up politics and stop the movie cold. Yep, there’s that jarring historical transition I was telling you about. In fact, the film would’ve probably gained a point had it included restroom break warning. But Lincoln’s politics don’t mesh up well with a story about how he cut up vampires and the rough shift sent at least one of the theater goers in front of us into a gentle snore. Now fifteen or twenty years later in the midst of the Civil War, Lincoln must take up his silver-tipped hatchet once more to destroy Adam, who is now supplying the Confederacy with an army of vampires.

Kazakhstan-born director Timur Bekmambetov makes the film stylish, as he is wont to do, but it’s in an inauthentic manner that makes the once-slick 300 look supremely old now. Far too little of the film is done practically and every wide shot looks cheap. Like visibly fake horses in a stampede, or enough fog to drown out any concerns of green screen bleed on the actors during the train-based climax. The best special effect may in fact be Benjamin’s old man makeup as he portrays Lincoln over the course of several decades. Amongst the distracting CGI are enough jump cuts and quick zooms to make this look like a high octane, 19th century advertisement for the newest Droid phone.

As a whole, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is two incongruous narratives with a cheap binding, like that awful glitter glue you used in third grade. Sure, it didn’t work as well as the other stuff, but man, glitter

6/10 FleshEatingZipper

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