‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ Review
A delightful horror romp through history! A fun and gnarly tall tale that cleverly mixes presidential esoterica and fantasy fun! An eye candy treat from the special effects wizard behind 'Night Watch!'
I was itching to come out of 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter' spouting all of the above and more. Sadly, the only thing I could come up with to say about this thoroughly asinine, tone-deaf picture was "that was offensive to history."
We open with young Abraham Lincoln emotionally scarred by witnessing two incidents: brutality against a young slave and watching his mother get killed by a vampire. Right off the bat we've equated a true national horror with B-movie silliness.
As Abe gets older he finds his Obi-Wan in Henry Sturges, a “good Vampire” who teaches him how to kick undead ass. His weapon of choice is a rail-splitting axe – kinda funny, right? Abe's then off to Springfield to study law by day and behead vampires by night.
The vamps are all around us apparently but no one much notices because they do most of their feeding off of slaves in the south. Desirous of wiping vampires off the map, Lincoln runs for President with the master plan of starting the civil war.
I guess I missed the memo saying that it was now cool to relegate the crime of slavery to a punchline. I'd be more willing to let it slide if there was any intelligence in this movie to signify some sort of subversive element, or at least delightful camp, but there is neither, which means the only appropriate response it to be a little bit offended.
The problem is that it is impossible to care about these characters. Yeah, it's somewhat amusing to see Honest Abe in his top hat bashing in the heads of snarling creatures, but that's a YouTube video, not a movie. The portrayals of Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) or Stephen Douglas feel like the elongation of the sketch, but any moment of the film that isn't action or some sort of “I get it!” goof is dead on the screen. There's no drama at all and, unfortunately, this movie isn't wall-to-wall vampire killing.
Furthermore, the action that is there is middling at best. The fights are shot in the Zack Snyder ramping (speed up and slow down) style, only not nearly as well as that vastly superior fake history film '300.' The big boss battle here is thick with fog, a nice trick to hide computer generated effects far less impressive than 2004's 'Night Watch.'
'Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter' has maybe one or two worthwhile moments. There's a fight scene during a horse stampede that hints at how much better this movie would be if it embraced its silliness a little more. Timur Bekmanbetov is no Sam Raimi, though, so this quick breath of fresh air is promptly stunk up with more pontificating that will bore the action audience and enrage history teachers. Some of the montages will make you smile, and there is the occasional zinger (“Emancipate yourself!” the bad guy shouts) but I'd say a full 85% of the laughs the movie received were directed “at” the film and not “with” it.
Not to sound like a stick in the mud, but Abraham Lincoln was a great and noble man. He deserves better than this. His son died of typhoid fever and it nearly broke his family in two. He wasn't killed by vampires! I know it was over 150 years ago and he's not around to be offended, but I guess I'm square enough to think that Lincoln was a cool enough guy that we shouldn't be using his personal pain as fodder for a cheap laugh. I feel like if you are going to use a figure like Lincoln or The Pope or, I dunno, Elvis, you have to bring your A game, and this film, alas, does not.
Years ago I received a review copy of Seth Grahame-Smith's first major success, 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.' “That's a riot!” I said as I looked at the cover, then tossed the text into one of the many giant trunks of crap I have no intention of ever touching again until the next time I move.
'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter' hits theaters on June 22nd
Jordan Hoffman was the movies editor at Hearst Digital’s UGO for four years and currently contributes to SlashFilm, MTV’s NextMovie and StarTrek.com. He’s made two marginally successful independent movies, is a member of the New York Film Critics Online and was named IFC’s Ultimate Film Fanatic of the NorthEast in 2004. Follow him on Twitter at @JHoffman6.