Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter ***
TIMUR Bekmambetov’s film Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, certificate 15, is a film that’s premise and title is much more fun, than what is actually on the big screen for its one hour 45 minute runtime.
The director’s previous work includes the Moscow set horror films, Night watch and Day watch and the 2008, action feature, Wanted, which Was quite possibly one of the silliest action movies, that I can remember. The director is famed for an over the top approach to film making. His excessive use of special effects makes even Michael Bay seem restrained, in comparison.
Benjamin Walker stars as Honest Abe himself. Dominic Cooper, Rufus Sewell and Mary Elizabeth Winstead also feature amongst the film’s principle cast.
‘President by day, hunter by night’, proclaims the film’s tag line. Setting up the concept that America’s 16th President was a revenge seeking vampire hunter, in the mould of Buffy the vampire slayer. Lincoln is determined to avenge the death of his mother and young son at the hands of a blood sucking creature of the night.
In his youth Abraham is taught by fellow slayer, Henry Sturgess, played by Dominic Cooper. Sturgess holds a deeply guarded secret that might affect his relationship with Lincoln. Nevertheless he sends the young man to Springfield, Illinois to begin his hunt for the creatures of the night. Once there Lincoln discovers that vampires are abusing the slave trade in America for their own fiendish needs, realizing that politics might be a more productive way of tackling the problem.
His new career path, places him in direct conflict with the films villainous antagonist, Adam, played by Rufus Sewell. His character is a plantation owner in New Orleans and the vampire from which all others originate from in America. He has used to the slave trade as a means of keeping his kind fed, and he is not keen to see his food chain disrupted.
As Lincoln’s political career advances, he becomes smitten by Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s character, Mary Todd. He hides his other profession from the young woman, even after the two marry and head to the White House.
Surprisingly all the actors involved seem to take the film’s script very seriously. Mixing historical events with the film’s fictional elements, it attempts to paint the picture that everything on screen is historically accurate.
The director doesn’t disappoint viewers with his trademark over the top style. Including a sequence, that sees Lincoln chasing a vampire across a stampede of horses, jumping from horse to horse in a set piece that simply defies belief. The films climax on a burning railway bridge is needless and was too self-indulgent for my liking.
While the film has received mixed reviews by many critics. Given its silly premise and my own low expectations, I have to admit I rather enjoyed it. The concept, that vampire’s would abuse the slave trade is interesting but underplayed. The film’s dialogue is clunky and cheesy, given how seriously the actors are taking their roles, it’s such a shame that they have such a poor script.
The film is based on the novel of the same name by Seth Grahame-Smith. The writer is a long time collaborator with the film’s executive producer, Tim Burton. I was surprised to see Burton’s name attached to this film. But I have to say I found this much more enjoyable than some of Burton’s more recent cinematic offerings.
Bekmambetov’s feature plays out like a typical summer blockbuster. With other film’s released in Hollywood’s annual silly season, based on board games, cartoons and comic books this film fits the bill perfectly. Playing out like an action movie, in the mould of Stephen Sommers, The Mummy. While neither scary nor gripping enough for my likening, I still enjoyed it much more than I probably should have.
Review by William McClean