The cinema world loves a bit of historical revisionism. Braveheart, Anonymous, Pocahontas are just a few examples where timelines are fuzzed, conspiracy theories suggested and the sad bits are cut out to make for more entertaining versions of history. Now with this horror/fantasy film the life of America’s revered 16th President, Abraham Lincoln has some new blood pumped into it. Based ever so loosely on the life of Lincoln, the man who is credited with ending slavery in America, leading the North successfully against the Southern States in the Civil War and uniting a nation, this film has its tongue firmly wedged in its cheek.
The script and the 2010 book of the same name are penned by Seth Grahame-Smith, also the author of popular genre mash-up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (destined for a big screen adaptation in 2013). In the film we meet the young Abe (Lux Haney-Jardine) as he tries to defend his African-American friend, Will Johnson (Curtis Harris), when Abe’s parents step in, the Lincoln family make a powerful enemy, Plantation owner Jack Barts (Aussie actor- Marton Csokas, Romulus My Father). Barts extracts his punishment on Abraham’s mother, Nancy (another Aussie actor- Robin McLeavy, The Loved Ones). Witnessing the death of his beloved mother changes the course of Abraham’s life, endowing him with a lifelong desire for revenge. Aided by a mysterious stranger he meets at a bar, Henry Sturges (Dominic Cooper, Tamara Drewe), Abraham (played as an adult by Benjamin Walker, Flags of Our Fathers) is trained in the methods of detecting and eliminating of vampires.
However, Abraham’s life takes a turn into politics as he becomes interested in slavery. The reappearance of Will Johnson (played as an adult by Anthony Mackie, The Hurt Locker) and a growing awareness of how nefarious the vampires’-lead by Adam (Rufus Sewell, The Tourist)- plans are, Lincoln reassess his role and gains an understanding of the power of politics.
Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter is an absolutely terrible film. The acting ranges from wooden to operatic (though the cast all look to be having fun), the 3D is utterly wretched (the picture looking out of focus between the action sequences) and to say the dialogue is poor is being kind. However ridiculous this film is, it isn’t unwatchable. In fact for large portions the film is quite enjoyable, because it revels in its own terribleness. Russian director Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) is no stranger to vampire films, with his films Night Watch (2004) and Day Watch (2006) hugely successful in his homeland. With this film Bekmanbetov pushes the action sequences into the comical, with one particular sequence involving horses so incredibly over computer generated that it is impossible to watch without laughing. But this is where the film is both at its best and worst, when it is completely absorbed in fantasy: when Grahame-Smith and Bekmanbetov try and inject some semblance of historical accuracy the film just becomes incredibly dull.
Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter is released in Australia on August 2nd
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Cast: Benjamin Walker, Dominic West, Rufus Sewell, Anthony Mackie, Jimi Simpson, Erin Wasson,
Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Martin Csokas and Robin McLeavy