Here’s hoping schoolchildren don’t use Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter to cheat on any book reports or history exams. Like the supernatural thriller itself, they would fail.
The title alone should spawn more curiosity than is necessary for this silly revisionist nonsense, which sets its vampire gore against a true-life historical backdrop. As if Lincoln wasn’t heroic enough already.
Visually, the adaptation of the novel by Seth Grahame-Smith (who also wrote the screenplay) is innovative and thrilling, but that doesn’t translate to an uneven narrative that ultimately takes itself too seriously.
The film opens with Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) as a young man who is trained in the art of fighting an epidemic of bloodsucking immortals by his mentor (Dominic Cooper) in order to avenge the death of his mother.
Later, he becomes politically active and speaks out against slavery, in part to protect a childhood friend (Anthony Mackie). The other basic highlights of Lincoln’s life are tossed in — including the Civil War basically summed up in a montage — such as his introduction to eventual wife Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and his rivalry with Stephen Douglas (Alan Tudyk).
The idea here is to take two ideas as far apart as possible, throw them into a cinematic blender, and see what comes out. The result offers some fast-paced thrills amid its tedious narrative aimlessness.
Russian director Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) is in familiar territory, having previously helmed the stylish Night Watch series of vampire sagas.
With his effort, he takes advantage of his larger budget and 3D special effects, giving the action sequences added potency — not to mention a high blood-and-guts quotient. The fight scenes feature plenty of creative choreography, and some are truly frightening, such as a vampire attack set inside an abandoned bank.
The film is the first big-screen adaptation of a novel by Grahame-Smith (who wrote the script for the recent Dark Shadows movie), with the similarly off-the-wall Pride and Prejudice and Zombies currently in development.
Such material has potential if it can achieve the right tone, which in this case should have allowed for more humor and paid less attention to patriotic significance and social injustices of the time. This not a biopic of Lincoln, so don’t sweat the details.
Rated R, 105 minutes.