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Review #3561: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)

Posted on the 23 June 2012 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Andy Spencer

Written by Seth Grahame-Smith
Directed by Timur Bekmambetov

Timur Bekmambetov is one of the most visually focused directors currently working. All three of his most famous preceding films are shining examples of style over substance, and featured cars driving on the sides of skyscrapers and shots following curving bullets through the air. While their stories and characters could never match the sumptuous eye candy, his style has never failed him. Similarly to his “World of Watches” films (which involved a war between good and evil over a piece of chalk), “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” is a movie that many could be forgiven for labeling as pulpy fun at best.

Review #3561: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)

Incredible title aside, “Vampire Hunter” takes itself and its bloodthirsty antagonists quite seriously. There are no attempts at limp comic relief, no Lincoln casually spewing the words for which he is known, and (almost) no sexy bloodsuckers. Our sixteenth president dispatches his opponents with swift, gory efficiency, all the while looking cool while doing it. Many fight scenes manage to touch all four walls of a room (and occasionally the ceiling) before the final silver-riddled corpse hits the ground. Each major encounter tops the last, culminating in a truly spectacular clash aboard a moving train.

Of course, the entire film cannot be axes spitting skulls, and it is in these other areas that the film stumbles. Young Lincoln witnesses his mother’s death at the hands of a vampire, and is taken under the wing of veteran vampire killer Henry Sturgess to learn the coveted art. Henry explains that the life of a hunter does not leave room for attachments or relationships. Lincoln, though, falls in love with and marries Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).

Their interactions would be more meaningful if they were better written. Seth Grahame-Smith, who wrote the screenplay adapted from his own novel, does not imbue his characters with much humanity. Sure, Lincoln shows emotion and wears grim expressions, but he might as well be the Terminator. Winstead, despite delivering the best performance in the film, cannot enliven conversations by herself. Neither the acting nor the writing allow conversations to fascinate or resonate.

Now obviously, this film takes a few liberties with history. The south apparently consisted mostly of vampires, and slavery was nothing but a front to provide them with ample stockpiles of food. And the vampires were not fighting for their right to own slaves, but rather for the chance to establish an entire nation of bloodsuckers. How they would divvy up any unfortunate humans over an entire continent once that happened is anyone’s guess. Also, Stephen Douglas is featured in the film, is capably played by Alan Tudyk, and is portrayed as being a pro-slavery activist. Douglas exists solely to provide the political Lincoln with an opponent, and is left feeling inconsequential as well as inaccurate.

To its credit, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” is full of sound and fury where it counts. Blood and death are the orders of the day, and are delivered in satisfying bursts. However, interchangeable characters and wooden dialog prevent it from becoming anything more than a competently stylish action-horror flick.

Score: 7/10


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