Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Review By Adam
Does the title Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter make you laugh? It should, because Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a fucking joke. A misfire on every level, this film plays like a $70 million Saturday Night Live sketch without a single (intentional) laugh. A rancid hot pot of over-caffeinated action, choppy editing, self-importance and retarded scripting, Lincoln is the worst blockbuster in recent memory and one of the most ill-conceived productions of all time. All I could think after seeing this film was: Who the fuck would think this is a good idea?
Based on Seth Graeme-Smith’s novel of the same name (which I have heard is actually good), Lincoln proposes that everyone’s favourite chin-strapped President had a double life as a slayer of the undead. When his mother is killed by a vampire, Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) sets out to rid the world of their kind. Under the tutelage of the mysterious Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), Lincoln learns that vampires have infiltrated most aspects of society and are all around him. Can Lincoln set aside his personal vengeance and focus on saving the country that he loves?
Graeme-Smith’s plot includes the majority of Lincoln’s most famous moments, but it skewers key events so that they fit into this radical re-interpretation. Example: slaves are not bought and sold for their labour, instead they are food for the vampires. Hence, Lincoln’s push for the abolishment of slavery has a dual purpose. Some people will be up in arms over this distortion of history, but I don’t give a solitary fuck. I’m more offended by how poorly this film is written. Nothing gets breathing room. Ever. It plays like a greatest hits album, albeit a shit one. Also, this film’s screenplay is about as subtle as a nine iron to the nuts. Every single visual clue is rendered obsolete by a groan worthy one liner: in one chase scene, a vampire literally yells out ‘You better catch me, Abraham, before I get to your lady friend. Hahaha.’ Yes, the script is that fucking bad. One minute Abe is 25-years old, the next he is 50, not in a cool Scarface-like epic storytelling way either. Graeme-Smith (yes, he adapted his own book, so he can’t blame anyone else) just wants to jump to the next historical moment. Unfortunately, this comes at the cost of any kind of character investment. There is a bunch of bizarrely unresolved storylines in this film. For example: Stephen A. Douglas (played by the great Alan Tudyk) who was Lincoln’s love rival for Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is introduced as a character of note and then promptly dropped for no apparent reason, never to be seen again – this film must have been edited with a fucking meat cleaver (or a pimple-faced studio intern) and not the credited editor, the talented William Hoy (Watchmen).
The majority of Lincoln’s actors — Dominic Cooper, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Anthony Mackie — are strong performers, but they all struggle with this material — even Daniel Day-Lewis could not overcome this turgid a script. The only people to come out of this (relatively) unscathed are the villains. Marton Csokas and Rufus Sewell are porkier than Christmas hams as Abe’s undead adversaries, but it works. They seem to be the only people who understand how batshit crazy this film is. Benjamin Walker tries his best in the titular role, but how can anyone — no matter how talented — overcome bad, aged make up and axe-fu (yes, for no particular reason an aged Abe spins his axe like Tom Cruise spun bottles in Cocktail. And, yes, it is flat-out ridiculous). He looks strikingly like a young Liam Neeson (someone get a Taken prequel started, stat) and is naturally charismatic, but this film keeps pulling him down like some kind of cinematic tar pit. Hopefully he has a career after this, as I imagine he is capable of good work.
As dreadful as Greame-Smith’s screenplay is, director Timur Bekmambetov is equally complacent in Lincoln’s shortcomings. Bekmambetov is the Kazakh director who exploded onto the scene with his Russian smash hit NightWatch. Bekmambetov’s success soon caught Hollywood’s eye and his bombastic comic adaptation Wanted (which I dug, in a trashy Fight Club meets The Matrix way) put him on the map as a unique visual stylist. Unfortunately, Bekmambetov undoes all of his past cinematic goodwill in one fell swoop with Lincoln. While a match made in heaven on paper, his wild, over-stylised aesthetics smash head first into the dour, morose tone of this material. Every punch and axe swing is slowed down for maximum impact, but instead of the desired effect, this just gives you more time to comprehend how fucking stupid all of this truly is. People in my cinema started laughing out loud at some of Bekmambetov’s more garish action flourishes. All of Lincoln’s big action setpieces are complete bullshit. Bekmambetov covers the action in either fog, dust or smoke to hide the fact that he has swapped actors and stuntmen for dodgy, CGI composites (think the dodgier effects in The Matrix sequels). In one scene (that I imagine will become infamous) Abe is chasing his opponent through a horse stampede in broad daylight (oh, the vampires are not affected by the Sun in this. No biggie, it’s just fucking mythology). The vampire stands on his horse and begins to bound between the different steeds. That’s cool, he has immortal powers, but then… Abe does the same. So you have two shitty CGI puppets bouncing in-between horses and it’s meant to be rousing? Lame. Bekmambetov can’t even get simple continuity right: in one scene Abe receives an epic beatdown, one that results in some gnarly facial injuries. The wounds heal over the next couple of scenes, but then, inexplicably, Abe’s wounds are back when he sits down to watch a slide show with Henry. I would imagine this kind of error in a student film, not a $70 million production.
Now, one of my biggest issues with this film is the handling of Abe’s talents. Literally no explanation is given as to why he can do all of this inhuman shit. In the trailers there is a shot of him busting open a full grown tree with a single stroke of his axe. In the trailer it looked pretty badass, but in the context of the film, it is ridiculous. In a lobotomised scene, Abe’s mentor, Henry Sturgess, instructs Abe to cut down a tree with a single stroke.
‘That’s impossible,’ retorts Abe.
‘Use your anger. Who do you hate?’ is all that Henry has to say and then.. BOOM! Abe obliterates the entire tree. Because? He is angry. What utter bullshit. I would have bought any other reason: magic potion? Vampire blood? Steroids? But, no. Anger. If this logic worked in real life I’d be Superman after driving in Melbourne during peak hour. That scene is just the tip of the iceberg of bullshit this film expects you to swallow.
Some of you must be thinking: He doesn’t get it. He is taking this too seriously. This is Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter! I’m not the one who is taking this seriously. The people that made this film are taking it seriously: deadly serious. The tone of this film is its biggest flaw. I imagined that Bekmambetov would make this an all-out romp, but there is nary a wink in this: this film is playing for keeps. Even when Abe cocks his axe and reveals that it also doubles as a shotgun, we are meant to take this film seriously. Bekmambetov wants us to go: Fuck, yeah! Instead my audience had the appropriate response: they laughed out loud. Let me reiterate: this film is a serious horror tale, with Abraham Lincoln as the protagonist. Seriously. Yup, I’m impeaching this shit.
An early, but strong contender for worst film of the year.