Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, discovers vampires are planning to take over the United States. He makes it his mission to eliminate them.
There are some titles that brilliantly encapsulate the premise of the accompanying story. ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER is one of these. The gut-punching sell is there front and centre; one of the most popular US presidents also Hunted Vamps?! Hell, yeah!
Or maybe not. I actually thought it sounded pretty dumb. Another easy pop cultural mash up from Seth Grahame-Smith, the author who also brought us PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES. If the dude had had attempted GERALD FORD: DEMON KILLER or JIMMY CARTER: WEREWOLF ASSASSIN then he would have been doing something rather more difficult and less lucrative. But as ELECTRIC SIX showed us in 2003 with their clip for Gay Bar there is endless fun to be had showing the upright and wise Lincoln behaving outside the picture painted by history.
The film itself is good. Unless you’re an absolute stickler for historical accuracy, in which case you should avoid this movie at all costs. Rather than being a BLACKADDER style riff that turns Lincoln into an ironic observer of his times, the movie is utterly bent on making its Lincoln the honest Abe of popular imagination.
The movie doesn’t have too much in the way of glaring anachronism. The production design, costumes and dialogue show some care and attention to the time period. Which is pretty good for a film that suggests the US Civil War was as much about vampires versus humans as it was about the emancipation of slaves.
Benjamin Walker makes a solid Lincoln. He is virtually unknown on the big screen and this allows him to create his version of a figure we think we know well. The decision to keep the character of Lincoln away from his signature hat and beard as long as possible is a wise one. That iconic image is the much older Civil War Lincoln. The story unfolds with a linear timeline starting with a young Abe aged around 11.
The forces of vampiric evil are ably portrayed by Rufus Sewell and New Zealand’s Marton Csokas. Interestingly, the vampire myth isn’t given much time here. There are apparently no stake-through-the-heart, cannot-go-out-in-daylight rules to be broken. Only the undead immortality and bloodsucking remain. Anthony Mackie and Dominic Cooper are Lincoln’s go-to-guys in the fight against the undead. Englishman Cooper manages a charismatic performance in his supporting role.
The action is ably (ha!) and at times brilliantly choreographed by Russian director Timur Bekmambetov, who is known for his Russian films NIGHT WATCH (2004) and DAY WATCH (2006). Sadly, he is probably best known internationally for the preposterous action film WANTED (2008).
If you’re looking for American patriotism, loads of slow motion-action, sprays of computer-generated arterial blood and a fun night at the movies, ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER will deliver. The movie is on Australian screen right now. I rated it a 6/10.