Review: Abraham Lincoln – Vampire Hunter

2012 is quickly shaping up to be the Year of the Daft Premise. First we had the Moon-Nazis of Iron Sky, and now we have Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, the newest film from Wanted director Timur Bekmambetov. 

Based on the novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, who also wrote the screenplay, the film follows the life of America’s sixteenth president (Benjamin Walker), rewritten to include lots of fiction’s favourite bloodsuckers. Thankfully these are “chomp your neck and kill you” vampires rather than the “twinkle in the sun” kind, so Abe is aided by the enigmatic Henry (Dominic Cooper), who shows him how to swing a silver-headed axe. Apparently, silver kills them. I thought that was werewolves, but apparently these things are interchangeable nowadays.

Seth Grahame-Smith manages to strike a pretty good balance between maintaining historical accuracy and incorporating the bonkers backstory into Lincoln’s life. The issue, however, is the change in pace that inevitably comes with condensing a 300 page novel into a 105 minute movie.

Lincoln’s romance with Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is brushed over far too quickly – in fact her previous courtier (Alan Tudyk) promptly vanishes never to be heard from again – as is his journey to the White House. But it’s a forgivable flaw, considering this was never meant to be anything close to a biopic.

The cast do a pretty decent job, too. Benjamin Walker works well as Honest Abe, changing from a gawky young man into a strong, dependable leader; he also looks fabulous with the beard. Winstead is rather charming as Mary Todd Lincoln, standing on Abe’s top hat in order to try and kiss him, and Cooper does a passable job of the Yoda role, looking dark and brooding and slightly pretty – even though his “enigmatic character” is completely transparent.

Less convincing are the vampires. They may not be sparkly, but unfortunately they all seem to be completely leaden – they can also go out in daylight and teleport, which is just plain wrong. Aside from Rufus Sewell as baddie Adam (whose accent was nicked straight from True Blood) they serve as little more than axe fodder during the slaying scenes; which, to be fair, are the highlight of this movie.

As with Wanted, Bekmambetov has created a film that’s slick and stylish, if a little too reliant on the old CGI. Abe’s axe-swinging is almost balletic, and there are some set-pieces (set on a train and around a stampede of horses) that are genuinely thrilling. Unfortunately, it’s also painfully obvious that this was a film which was meant to be seen in 3D; a point hammered home rather forcefully during the early shot of a whip striking towards the screen.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter will clearly not go down in history as a great vampire movie. But it never claims to be anything more than a silly popcorn flick, and in that respect it turns out to be rather enjoyable, if not perfect.

And it’s still miles better than Twilight.

7/10

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