Abraham Lincoln is often regarded as the greatest president to have served the United States of America. He helped abolish slavery. He sacrificed the lives of many Americans to reunite the north and south. He singlehandedly saved the country from a legion of vampires.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is based on the hit pop culture novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, which mixed vampire folklore into the history of the 16th president (he is also known for Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies"). In the book, Grahame-Smith explains that while Abraham truly did hate slavery, he had other motives as well: vampires, who were responsible for killing his mother, relied on slaves to secretly feed their growing numbers. Armed with his trusted axe, Abraham traveled around the country killing vampires, even as his political career blossomed.
It's a clever concept, but unfortunately one that doesn't translate well to the big screen.
The book was written in a very historical way, the action always subtle. It took the content seriously most of the time, which is why it worked. As a movie, however, the concept of Abraham Lincoln fighting vampires would normally be reserved for cheesy B-grade horror. That's really the only way the movie could work, but making it cheesy would defy every aspect of the book.
Grahame-Smith adapted his own book to the big screen, opting to keep the film serious while transforming the story to meet director Timur Bekmambetov's action-oriented style. The director is best known for the visual effects-laden Night Watch and Wanted, and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is another that relies heavily on creative action sequences and stylized violence to entertain the audience.
The result is a mildly engaging but ultimately forgettable film that is restrained by its own devices. It's too serious for its own good - it lacks the fun factor that a movie titled Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter needs to have. As time goes on, the movie becomes more and more repetitive, and Bekmambetov takes things to absurd levels with a couple of big action scenes (one involving a herd of horses, the other a train and a burning bridge) that extend beyond the capabilities of his visual effects budget - and reason. In other words, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a serious movie with lots of unintentionally cheesy moments. The combination doesn't work.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is not an outright disaster as it does have plenty of vampire action and an entertaining story. But it's a story that works best in written format.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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