When I first heard that they were making a live action adaption of Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, my ‘BAD IDEA’ alarm went off like a tugboat horn. When I found out that Timur Bekmambetov, the director of Wanted, was helming the project, my ‘GIVE IT A CHANCE’ indicator light began to flash. But after watching Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, I’m saddened to see my ‘SATISFACTION’ tank is on E. I drive a really strange car.
Whew! Where do I start? The acting? Honest Abe is played by Benjamin Walker. Walker plays him as bland and boring as you might imagine Abe Lincoln to be. But that is the problem. You’ve resigned to the fact that your hero will be boring, and yet, give him no one fun to play off of. Well, they do but he is very underutilized. And that character is Henry Sturgess played by Dominic Cooper. You may remember Cooper as a young Howard Stark in Captain America. Now there is a film with a patriotic hero who could have easily been boring but wasn’t, while still not betraying his character. Though, Benjamin Walker is no Chris Evans. I digress. Cooper has the only performance in this film that seems to feel right. He is having fun. Everyone else is either sleepwalking or overacting to the point of mugging at the camera. Even the love story between Abe and Mary Todd seems forced. Yes, they made one of the most historically famous romances seem forced.
Visually? I’ll be frank. The special effects in this film, whether it be because of budget restrictions or laziness, are surprisingly awful. I cannot emphasize that enough. The worst vampire effects I have ever seen, by far. And that includes Van Helsing. The CGI face transformations for the vamps in this make them appear more like cheap cartoons than creatures of the night. You remember in Who Framed Roger Rabbit when Christopher Lloyd…..24 YEAR OLD SPOILER ALERT….reveals he’s a cartoon and becomes an amalgamation of live action man and Chuck Jones animation? That is what these vampires look like when they go all savage. Any moment that they are supposed to be scary is sabotaged by these lackluster effects. They could have gone practical for much cheaper and garnered a better result.
What about the action? Well, the action scenes are poorly staged and executed Which baffles me seeing as this, AGAIN, is the director of Wanted. There is a fight scene in this film that takes place during a stampede of horses. And I have no hesitation saying that it is the most RIDICULOUS action sequence I have ever witnessed. It is a perfect storm of horrible CGI, horrible action staging, horrible acting, and a horrible payoff. This was when I knew I was in trouble, because this laughable scene happens only 40 minutes in.
Despite all these things, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’s number one flaw is it’s tone. It is something that, if they had gotten right, would allow us to ignore the other mistakes. This is a story about Abraham Lincoln, perhaps our greatest president, being a vampire hunter. And they play this film entirely serious. The title, let alone the concept, screams ‘tongue and cheek’. Yet, this film tries to invoke an emotional response from you. And they do it haphazardly. Middle of the road doesn’t work for this material. If you want to go dark with this…go really dark. If not, you have to go campy. Instead, it tries to stick with the same tired, cliched, tropes you can probably see coming from a mile away. So, here is an equally tired, cliched, summation of this film that you can probably see coming from a mile away. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter has no fangs, no teeth, no bite…it just plain sucks. Watch it…bring your garlic…then tell me I’m wrong.