Movie Review: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)

July 19, 2012 in Movie Reviews, Reviews by pacejmiller

I don’t care. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is an awesome film. One of the best action movies of the year so far.

I was sceptical at first too. The first time I came across the title was in a Sydney bookstore, right around the time Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was taking off around the world. It wasn’t quite the same as taking an out-of-copyright masterpiece and playing around with it, but I nevertheless tossed this piece of historical fantasy fiction in the same category. After all, it’s written by the same guy (Seth Grahame-Smith).

The idea that former US president Abraham Lincoln, possibly the most beloved of them all, was secretly a vampire hunter, is so ludicrous that I was convinced it had to be a comedy. But no. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is actually dead serious.

A lot of people will probably write off the film right there. How can such a stupid idea make such a serious movie? Well, it can, and it did, proving once again that it’s all in the execution.

The story begins in Indiana, where a young Lincoln is living with his plantation worker parents. An act of kindness leads to tragedy, and Lincoln grows up plotting his revenge, only to be plunged into the world of vampire hunting instead.

I don’t know a whole lot about Lincoln’s biography, but it appears some of the characters were real people and the timeline of Lincoln’s political career and major historical events were roughly accurate – everything else was entirely fabricated (or so I believe).

The thing about this movie is that it’s super exciting. If you can look past how ludicrous the premise is, then the idea of Lincoln being an axe-wielding vampire slayer is actually a very cool one. And if you can accept the crazy idea then all the insane and utterly impossible stuff that Lincoln does in the film become pretty awesome too. It’s a gradual slope of acceptance, but if you can let go of reality and simply go for the ride, you might find it as scintillating as I did.

Russian director Timur Nurbakhitovich Bekmambetov (who directed Wanted and the Nightwatch/Daywatch films) delivers slick visuals that remind me of the best video games, with well-choreographed action sequences that are incredible to look at. Tim Burton is one of the co-producers of the film and a bit of his unique style has definitely rubbed off on the film too.

There’s plenty of violence and blood and guts, but all of it is stylized and not at all cringeworthy. There are, however, a few scares that could make you jump out of your seat. If nothing else, the film is an exciting visual treat filled with thrills, chills and epic battle scenes – and that is certainly much more than I had expected.

The big dude who plays Lincoln, Benjamin Walker, is excellent. He’s tall and imposing, looks like Liam Neeson and exudes the vulnerability of Eric Bana. And he’s pretty handy with an axe too. Once that famous beard is on his face it’s hard to envisage a more suitable actor for the role. He makes Abraham Lincoln a real person and not a caricature. I guess it also helps that Lincoln died almost 150 years ago.

If I had to complain about anything it would have to be some of the sloppier special effects scenes that make things appear a little cartoony. I also expected a little more from the final battle with the head vampire. And I suppose there could have been a joke or two to lighten the mood occasionally, but it’s pretty clear 10 minutes in that this film was taking itself seriously.

Personally, I did not have a problem with the serious tone because Bekmambetov managed to pull it off. I’m not one of those people who think an outlandish premise must inevitably result in a comedy.

Whatever. As far as crazy historical fantasy fiction re-imaginings go, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a winner.

4 stars out of 5