Review: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter? It is a fun concept, taking an iconic figure from American history and mixing them in with the current vampire fixation. Unfortunately, the one thing lacking from Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is fun - Timur Bekmambetov's film may feature some moments of impressive action, but it just seems to be taking itself far too seriously.

Filled with vengeance after his mother is killed by a vampire ten years earlier, young Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) sets out to kill the creature that did so. He is soon aided Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), who proceeds to teach him the art of vampire hunting. After discovering the scale of the vampire problem, Lincoln believes he would be better suited using political power against the waging war with the vampires and Confederates.

The setting of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is quite an interesting one - it is rare that we see a vampire film set during the time of the American Civil War. Bekmambetov's direction exudes maximum atmosphere from mid 1800s New Orleans, Gettysburg and Illinois locations, marking a pleasant departure from the traditional horror film settings. This setting also allows for some heavy handed, yet interesting nonetheless parallels between slavery and the vampire's grip over society.
Bekmambetov continues to show an impressive handle over the action sequences here, expertly staged - regardless of how ridiculous they become. Unfortunately, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter refuses to embrace this ridiculousness of its subject matter and actually allow the viewer to have fun. It astounds me how a film can present a vampire swinging a fully grown horse at Abraham Lincoln in a serious fashion. Or seeing the President jam his fist into a vampire's stomach and hacking down a tree with a single axe-swing. This could have been far more impressive had Bekmanbetov carried this out in a tongue in cheek fashion or have even given a sly wink to the audience.

It is this lack of humour and failure to deviate from the territory of traditional genre fare that leads to the vast part of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter feeling cold and generic. Possibly the closest recent comparison would be to the likes of Priest or Legion. This is truly unfortunate, because with a concept as fun as this, it could have been an enjoyable, original feature.

Benjamin Walker's droll leading turn may be a more believable representation of Lincoln, however, this is a ridiculous concept - we do not need a believable depiction of Lincoln, that went out the window as soon as he started to slaughter vampires. Fortunately, charismatic supporting performances from Dominic Cooper, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and the wonderfully underrated Rufus Sewell keep things ticking along.

Had Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter embraced the ridiculousness of its title and dropped the serious pretense, it could have been a lot of fun. Warm supporting turns, Bekmambetov's competent action sequences and an original setting are unfortunately not enough to inject life into this film.
Rating: 2/5
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