Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
A dull, dour, joyless film, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” is a film that has no clue how good it should be.
Benjamin Walker plays the iconic president/bloodsucker killer as a stoic, serious man who is taught to hunt vampires in his youth after one of them (Marton Csokas) kills his mother.
He learns his trade from Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), himself a vampire hunter with something of a secret. Sturgess trains Lincoln to work with a silver-coated ax, which he uses to dispatch the bloodsucking heathens. Henry is his friend and warns him to not forge any lasting bonds with other people who you can be hurt by in the future. Of course, Lincoln meets Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and soon they are romantically entangled.
The film hops haphazardly from point to point in Lincoln’s life, as if the film were two or even three films smushed together. The jumping around is jarring and distracting as we have to guess what point in his life we’re seeing. His interest in politics is glossed over, and we only see him rise to the presidency in a quick scene to get back to the vampire hunting.
It’s a mistake by director Timur Bekmambatov (“Wanted”) to not capitalize on the sense of fun this film could have brought.
The film would be better served by doing a better job of melding these two professions. There is an awkward marriage of Honest Abe’s distaste for slavery with the vampires, who want to enslave the entire human race, but how he can better combat it as the president is mentioned in passing but not emphasized.
The action scenes are, for the most part, straightforward and uneven. There are a few cool effects (including vampires teleporting themselves), and the vamp designs are different enough from the norm to stand out (there isn’t enough explanation, though, as to how they’re able to bandy about in the daylight without bursting into flames). And the film’s climactic battle is at times thrilling, if a little overwrought.
Rounding out the cast, Rufus Sewell plays the main villain Adam, who is rumored to be the first vampire, and Jimmi Simpson plays Joshua Speed, the shopkeeper who was Lincoln’s longtime friend in real life.
The idea of this film is deliciously fun: Of course, Lincoln, being among the baddest of the presidents, the revered figure who ended slavery and saw the nation through a violent chasm of clashing ideals and brought it back together, would be the choice to hunt vampires if any president was. But Bekmambatov isn’t able to reconcile Lincoln’s stoicism as a character into a sense of irony. There just aren’t enough laughs in this film to remind us that this is a satire, and it instead plays out as an unintentional farce.
It’s certainly an opportunity wasted; in the hands of another director, this could have been quite a hoot, a fun historical horror mashup. Instead, it’s a dreary bore, a film you might see and may not hate, but you won’t like as much as you should.