With a title like Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, you kind of know what you’re getting when you walk into the theater – tongue in cheek, revisionist history, filled with vampires.
In short, the film is ludicrous fun. Did I need to see it in the theater, probably not, I could’ve patiently waited for it to show up on home video or Netflix, but I was sufficiently intrigued to venture to the cinema to take it in.
Directed by Timur Bekmambetov, who previously made the action flick Wanted, which I didn’t care for, and the Russian films Night Watch and Day Watch, both of which I did like, the film carries on with his distinctive style of visual film-making – lots of action, an insane amount of special effects that removes the concept of our reality and elevates it to a completely souped-up hyper-reality (which is not always a good thing, because it can jar you out of the film, but Timur seems to have found a good balance for it).
Tim Burton comes along as producer, and once again, seeing his name on the poster, you automatically conjure what kind of film this could be, gothic, dark colours, odd characters.
None of these descriptions miss the mark in portraying the concept of the movie.
And that’s what it is, the sum of its parts. Nothing more. You’re getting exactly what the title says.
Adapted from his own book, Seth Grahame-Smith wrote the screenplay that details the secret life of Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker – who in the first part of the film before the beard comes along looks like a cross between Liam Neeson and Benedict Cumberbatch). He witnesses his mother’s death at the hands of a vampire, and swears vengeance on the bloodsuckers, who are masquerading all through out the States, and are helping to keep the slave trade alive (keeping a steady supply of food moving throughout the country).
Every time one introduces vampires in any media, you have to explain which rules apply to your version. In this reality, vampires can move about in daylight (via some strong skin cream), some can vanish, and depending on the bite, they can turn you, kill you or poison you (though how a vampire differentiates which one to do, and how they control it is never revealed – has anyone read the book?).
The film weaves itself around recorded historical incidents, putting them in a different light, though the film does make sure (quite rightly) that when it comes to slavery – the message is clear, it’s wrong on every level. This of course precipitated a war between the north and the south, while in this film another battle raged, Lincoln vs. the Vampires, specifically Adam (Rufus Sewell), the first vampire.
The cast is rounded out with Dominic Cooper who plays Lincoln’s trainer, Henry, Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Mary Todd, Anthony Mackie as Will, and Jimmi Simpson as Joshua Speed.
There are some fantastic set pieces, the ballroom battle, the horse stampede, and the train finale, which is the best example in the film of the effects laden uber-reality that Timur creates.
In the end, the film is fun, over-the-top with some dazzling fight scenes, a cinema confection that is tasty enough, but may leave you hungry for something more.