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Movie Review: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

June 22, 2012
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For everyone who has become utterly disgusted with what vampires have been reduced to at the modern cinema, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter serves as a welcome reprieve from all that nonsense. These are not the sparkly, love-struck vampires we have been subjected to as of late (I’m talking about you, Cullen clan).  They aren’t sexy, horny creatures of the night that are more interested in screwing than sucking blood (True Blood).  These vampires are a throwback to old school vampires-nasty, soulless tormentors with absolutely no regard for human life, and they are ugly. When they attack, it’s with unhinged jaws filled with razor sharp teeth and demonic, glowing eyes. They’re true monsters, just as vampires are meant to be.

How on earth does Abraham Lincoln figure into vampire mythology? Seems that young Lincoln witnessed one of the monsters killing his mother.  Consequentially, he was obsessed with vindicating her death, but he promised his grieving father he wouldn’t do anything foolish. It isn’t until his father passes away that Abraham can pursue his goal without guilt.  On the very night he pursues his mother’s murderer, Abraham gets his ass handed to him by the vampire, and awakens in the house of Henry (Dominic Cooper), who offers to train Abraham in the art of vampire killing. Since Lincoln was raised chopping wood, he prefers an axe to use as his instrument of execution, and eventually flourishes as a would-be assassin. When he is finally allowed to act upon a carefully construed “vampire hit list” he diligently kicks some ass in the evenings, all the while leading a double life as a modest shopkeeper in the employ of Joshua (Jimmi Simpson) who becomes his loyal life-long friend.

The film cleverly weaves some historical accuracies into the fictionalized world-we see Lincoln meet his love Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), witness his foray into politics and his first encounters with political rival Stephen Douglas. The film (obviously) also takes great liberties with history, namely by positing that vampires (who are impervious save for silver) joined forces with the south in an attempt to take over the United States during the Civil War.  The vampires add an almost insurmountable obstacle to the north and Lincoln has figure out how to defeat the army of undead.

Director Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) knows his way around an action set piece, and this movie delivers some thrilling sequences. Still, it feels a bit bloated at an hour and forty-five minutes, so there are some pacing issues. A truly grievous over use of Matrix inspired bullet time keeps stalling the momentum during some fighting sequences. Can we please just declare a moratorium on this film technique? It’s been done to death, and it is tired and uninspired. The film would have been much better without all the time slices. The 3D is actually quite effective. It lends itself well to the frequent blood-splattering, and really adds some depth to the vampire’s creepy eyes.

Benjamin Walker is well cast as Lincoln. He reminds me of a young Liam Neeson, and he has the physical stature to convince us that he is Lincoln. Tall, awkward and lanky, Walker is a dead ringer for the president, particularly when he portrays him in latter years.  Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker) is a childhood friend who becomes Lincoln’s right hand man. Rufus Sewell is cold and unflinching as one of the head vampires who is constantly flanked by vampire hottie Vadoma (Erin Wasson) and Cooper is quite good as the tortured Henry. Winstead’s Mary Todd gives the story a soft touch.

Seth Grahame-Smith wrote the screenplay for the movie based on his novel of the same name.  I haven’t read the book, but I was told the movie ends much differently than the novel, so fans of the book might be disappointed. My best advice is to not take the movie too seriously, just go along for the ride.

Rating 3.5/5

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