What if Abraham Lincoln, esteemed 16th President of the United States, was a vampire hunter? This is the laughable premise on hand in Timur Bekmambetov’s faux-historical 3D action movie, imaginatively titled Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012), based on the novel by Seth Grahame-Smith (who also wrote the screenplay).
Bekmambetov’s film chooses to put Lincoln’s (an impressive central performance from Benjamin Walker) better-known deeds on the back-burner, focusing instead on the President’s secret life as a vampire hunter. Lincoln’s motivations for hunting the undead are established early on via a flashback of his mother’s death at the hands of a bloodsucker. From then on, the plot zips along at a furious pace as Lincoln is befriended by Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), trained in the ways of vampire-slaying and seeks vengeance on the creatures’ leader Adam (Rufus Sewell).
After the absurdity of the film’s premise sinks in, Vampire Hunter plays out in a straightforward fashion, repeatedly hopping from significant historical moments back to the core, fang-bashing storyline. Lincoln’s aversion to slavery is one of many actual historical events touched upon, but the biographical elements are, for the most part, rendered merely a backdrop to chronicle events. Add to all this a subplot involving Lincoln’s love interest Mary (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and it’s clear that there is too much going on for everything to be done well.
What Vampire Hunter does bring to the table is some fun action, handled deftly by Wanted (2008) director Bekmambetov. There’s plenty of impressive axe-wielding on display as Lincoln goes about his business of destroying the aforementioned ghouls, and these fight sequences are mostly well-choreographed. Despite such successes, Bekmambetov’s use of slow motion is overly excessive at times, particularly during the film’s otherwise compelling climax.
For all its cult ambition, Bekmambetov’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter feels like two separate movies bundled into one messy final package. Aside from occasional moments of high-octane action (the director’s hallmark) and a strong central performance from Walker as Abe, there is precious little more to recommend here.