Review: ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’
June 28, 2012
An abundance of horrific, bloody killings are simply the first silver nail in the coffin of “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.” The film is staked through the heart by its somber tone and detachment from its characters – including Abraham Lincoln. The lanky rail-splitter whose victories were dampened by disappointments and personal tragedy, is woodenly portrayed by well-built Benjamin Walker – bringing to the role a muscular 6-foot-3 frame and ability to twirl an ax like a majorette’s baton.
Young Lincoln learns the harsh reality of slavery when witnessing the beating of his best friend, a slave boy named Willie, by sadistic slave trader Jack Barts (Marton Csokas). Lincoln’s father comes to the boy’s aid, prompting Barts to take murderous revenge on Lincoln’s pure-hearted mum.
Ten years later, Lincoln attempts to kill Barts, only to be struck dumb and flung about like a stuffed toy for angering his quarry after Lincoln shoots the man at point black range – because Barts is a vampire.
Weighed down by its gloomy black-and-blue palette, the film’s darkened special effects leave the viewer feeling bruised.
Elsewhere, the story’s vampires comically tolerate sunlight provided they don sunglasses, but these come off when the vamps attack and develop a great white shark’s protruding jaw and triangular, serrated teeth. Further cartoonish enhancements to their feeding frenzy include suddenly bulging eyes as an assortment of bluish veins course across their pasty faces.
Appearing as vampires, revered actors Dominic Cooper and Rufus Sewell leapt onto this potential bandwagon, but got lost in their stereotyped characters, and a script giving them little or nothing of interest to do.
I’d hoped for more from Russian filmmaker Timur Bekmambetov – who may not be much of a plot-guy, but demonstrated an eye for unique special effects in his Russian horror films, “Night Watch” and “Day Watch.”
Adapting his novel into a screenplay, author Seth Grahame-Smith found a pot in his “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” That reworking of Austen’s classic sold one million copies for its publisher, Quirk Books. Grahame-Smith repeated this gimmickry in “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” purportedly constructed from Lincoln’s “secret diaries.”
The success of Grahame-Smith’s books indicates that readers’ imaginations are generally superior to the impaired vision on display in this film.