For years I was under the false impression that documentarian Ken Burns' PBS epic The Civil War was the most comprehensive historical entertainment about life in mid 1800's America. But here comes Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter to stake that misconception through the heart. If AL:VH is to be believed, Abe's freeing of the slaves was just a minor footnote in a life primarily spent slaying the blood-sucking undead. How could you ignore such an indelible part of our history, Ken?
In all seriousness, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is obviously not striving for historical accuracy. Brought to us by the team of producer Tim Burton and director Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted, The Nightwatch Triology) it's primarily concerned with giving us dizzyingly fast-paced visuals spliced with copious shots of gratuitous slow-mo axe-twirling.
At the start of AL:VH, our hero develops a lifelong vendetta against vampires after witnessing the murder of his mother at the hands (or I guess I should say fangs) of a slave owning vampire. As he matures, the noble but inexperienced Lincoln seeks revenge, yet has no clue just what he's up against. Enter Henry Sturges, a mysterious ally that serves as sort of a Van Helsing/Mr. Miyagi combo, schooling him on the ways of the vampire and unleashing his near Jedi-like ability to spin an axe around his body like nunchucks.
With the team of two visual craftsman like Timur and Burton on board, you'd expect to have some really eye-popping action sequences. And there are a handful. One impressive sequence set amongst a herd of stampeding cattle finds Abe and his nemesis leaping from horse to horse like Tarzan swinging from vine to vine. Few sequences match that level of inventiveness, however, and more often than not, Timur employs visual tricks straight from The Matrix playbook rather than coming up with some of his own. Yes, I agree split-second pauses with full camera wraparounds can be awesome, but they kind of lose their charm after the fortieth or fiftieth time.
Overall though, AL:VH is surprisingly serious, delivering virtually none of the camp that the title practically demands. If you're hoping to see the premise taken to absurd extremes, like seeing the Oval Office converted into some kind of presidential-vampire-killing bat cave, you may find it lacking. And oddly enough, despite Benjamin Walker's uncanny resemblance to a young Lincoln, so few aspects of the character really feel like Lincoln at all until the last quarter of the film, so the vast majority of the film ends up feeling more like Ordinary Guy in the Mid-1800s: Vampire Hunter.
AL:VH does manage to get one important aspect of the film right, and that's the surprising level of gore and bloodshed. The vampire design is also possibly the best I've seen from a film that uses non-practical effects, so for those vampire fans who are simply satisfied with competently rendered monsters and the perfunctory amount of blood and flying limbs: you'll walk away happy. If you need a little more than that "I can not tell a lie", Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Killer may not be for you… Wait a second, I just mixed up my historical references, didn't I?
What did you think of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter?