ABE LINCOLN VAMPIRE HUNTER
By Gary Murray
Starring Benjamin Walker, Rufus Sewell, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Dominic Cooper
Written by Seth Grahame Smith
Directed by Timur Bekmambetov
Running time 104 min
MPAA Rating R
Selig Film Rating—Matinee
The vampire film has been around almost since the beginnings of cinema. Nosferatu was one of the first big silent films and Dracula was the film that put Universal on the map. After a decade, the vampire film became more of a parody with Abbott and Costello delivering a comedy-punch to the scares. Then in the 1950’s, Hammer studios took over the horror and added buckets of blood. Lately, the vampire flick has been suffering in the Twilight of the genre. Director Timur Bekmambetov tries to bring us back to scary & mean vampires with the strange Abe Lincoln Vampire Hunter.
Based on a very bloody and graphic novel, Abe Lincoln Vampire Hunter tells the tale of our 16th president who is best known for freeing the slaves. According to this fantasy, he is also a seeker of blood sucking parasites.
The movies starts when Abe is a child and sees a vampire take the life of his mother. It is at that moment he wants to destroy the undead beast who took his mother. Flash-forward to Abe as a man (Benjamin Walker) and the vengeance and risen to rage.
As the attempt of killing a vampire goes very awry, Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper) steps into the fray, saving the future president. We find out that Henry is on a quest to rout out the unholy ones and destroy them. Soon, Henry and Abe form a pack and we get a montage of training with Mr. Lincoln learning how to swing a silver tipped axe.
The film becomes a bounce between Abe the emancipator and Abe the slayer. As the movie progresses the film parallels the struggle to free the slaves as the vampires desire to form their own Southern state. The vampires become Confederate Soldiers, full of Northern hate and fang. The entire exercise of Abe Lincoln Vampire Hunter is just silly.
This is a very violent film with buckets of blood splattering over everything and everybody. The CGI hemoglobin of Abe Lincoln Vampire Hunter fling across the camera lens with a morbid glee that one seldom sees in films. Director Timur Bekmambetov knows his way around an action sequence even when he mimics Sherlock Holmes with camera angles and placement. The film has more than a few giant beats of adventure and he makes the most of his second unit in crafting some intense action.
Dominic Cooper as Henry Sturgess is, in a word, brilliant. The actor finds an interesting interpretation of the character, a man cursed by his circumstance. The film would have been more appealing with more of a focus on this condemned man and not the president.
Of the cast, the most sympatric performance came from Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Mary Todd Lincoln. There is this wide-eyed sparkle in her reading that draws one in. It is a smaller part in this orgy of blood but it is also refreshing.
The weakest element of the film is Benjamin Walker as Honest Abe. The actor never truly becomes the president, never finds the proper beat in the performance. When the major actor of the work is weak, the entire production suffers.
With books like Seth Grahame Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Eric S. Brown’s War of the Worlds, Plus Blood, Guts and Zombies, there should be more of these mash-up ideas. Though it is a funny concept, almost a SNL skit, the idea does wear a bit thin after the first hour.
Though the film is a fun little diversion, it is not the summertime blockbuster that should set the genre on fire. It plays more like a cult film than a major entertainment. It is an entertaining film but nothing truly special.