Review: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter


(MA15+) *** 

Director: Timur Bekmambetov. 

Cast: Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell, Anthony Mackie, Marton Csokas.

THAT title, it's a one-note joke. Good ol' honest Abe - when he wasn't busy being the 16th President of the USA and freeing the slaves, he was secretly slicing and dicing the undead with his trusty axe. Ha ha ha.

However, it's a joke this movie never really cracks. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is as straight-faced as the president himself, and while the film does get inadvertantly hilarious as it goes further and further over-the-top, it never plays its unlikely set-up for spoof-like gags. This is a no-nonsense, action-horror flick set on spilling as much blood and decapitating as many vampires as possible, historical accuracy be damned.

Newcomer Walker plays Lincoln, whose mother was killed by a vampire (Csokas) when Abe was a boy.

As a young man, Lincoln meets the mysterious Henry Sturgess (Cooper), who teaches him the ways of vampire hunting, but the two butt heads as Lincoln's aspirations grow beyond killing individual vampires - he wants to wipe out the whole empire of the undead that exists in the American deep south, led by original vampire Adam (Sewell).

And so we have a bastardised American history lesson, with vampires as a metaphor for slavers.

The film is based on the book of the same name by Seth Grahame-Smith, who wrote the screenplay for the movie and is also responsible for the mash-up novel Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, another one-note joke idea.

Even though this seems like a goofy gag stretched out across 100 minutes, AL:VH works as a fun yet throwaway vamp-actioner. The dialogue runs from the solid to the silly, but its action sequences have the same kind of slowed-down over-the-top insanity that director Bekmambetov put into his previous films Wanted and Night Watch.

The action escalates appropriately and incredulously, starting with Lincoln going head-to-head with lone vampires to a running battle in a horse stampede to a final train-bound showdown that is so over-the-top it's laugh-out-loud-worthy.

Walker proves to be an admirable piece of casting, managing the physicality required for some axe-slinging slaying, but equally at home delivering the Gettysburg Address.

The rest of the cast is good without being exceptional, with Sewell and Cooper the pick of the bunch.

AL:VH is easy to dismiss and equally as easy to forget, but it does what it does well. The action is strong, Lincoln is well-played, and, best of all, the vampires don't sparkle.

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