Not only were the southerners a bunch of redneck, racist, hicks who were hell-bent on slavery, it turns out they were also blood sucking vampires. Or so Timur Bekmambetov and Seth Grahame-Smith would have you believe.
Smith penned the original Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter novel back in 2010 and was brought on board to write the screenplay with Berkmambetov – director of both Night and Day Watch – chosen to go behind the camera. Smith first came to attention with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies back in 2009 which would appear to be coming to a screen near you with David O.Russell of The Fighter fame one of the names linked with directing. Taking established works of fiction or historical fact and peppering them with either zombies or vampires, Smith pretty much sparked off a whole new mash-up craze.
Abraham Lincoln is played here by a Liam Neeson clone by the name of Benjamin Walker (Benjamin actually played a young Neeson in the film Kinsey), with the film charting Abe’s life from when he was just a little boy to that fateful night where he wished he was late for the theatre. We realise soon enough that it was actually an evil vampire who killed his mother as settlement for a debt. This set Lincoln on a life long journey in the pursuit of vengeance and not life, liberty or happiness.
Along the way he meets Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), an old hand at vampire killing who takes Abe under his wing showing him the tricks of the trade. Cue axe wielding, tree cutting, slow motion fighting montage. The film then proceeds with the life of Lincoln, his learning of the legal profession, entry into politics, love-life – all the while fighting the rise of vampires in his fair nation. The civil war here is concerned with the vampires trying to stake (pun very much intended) a claim to their way of life, meaning Lincoln really is fighting for the soul of his country.
Berkmambetov’s film is pretty slick, all the slow-motion action is clean and crisp but ultimately hollow. The main action sequence involving a chase on horses during a stampede incorporates a lot of CGI, and dodgy CGI at that, making it look so fake that it’s impossible to attach any emotion or interest in what’s going on.
With so much of Lincoln’s life being known to us, it’s unfair in a way to say the film is predictable as it’d be like trying to complain if someone spoiled the ending of Titanic. All the new fictional material is painfully predictable, if this is the first ever film about vampires you’ve seen I would allow you to be surprised but otherwise if you haven’t figured out the many supposedly surprising plot twists within the first ten minutes you really need to do your homework.
The acting is fine from all concerned, they do a plausible job at the beginning and it’s only in the third act or so when the film concerns itself with the civil war and the whole idea of slavery that they can’t quite muster the skill needed to imbue the issues with some weight. I felt that they shouldn’t be expected to do so though and could have been much more tongue in cheek as they’re fighting VAMPIRES. Horror has often held a mirror up to the social issues of the day but you can’t do this when you incorporate a real historic figure. It’s nonsense.
Enjoyable to a point, but bad CGI and not committing itself fully to the ludicrousness of it’s title results in a predictable flashy affair that certainly won’t be fooling any of the people.
USA / Directed By: Timur Bekmambetov / Written By: Seth Grahame-Smith / Starring: Benjamin Walker, Rufus Sewell, Dominic Cooper / 105min / Fantasy, Action, Horror / Release: 22 June 2012 (US/Canada/Irl/UK)