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Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter 3D (15)

Rachel Winterbottom reviews the most ludicrous film premise since time began

Published on June 25th 2012.


Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter 3D (15)

THERE is only one way to make Abraham Lincoln, the history of the American Civil War and the abolishment of slavery interesting - add vampires.

Unfortunately, the film never escapes the fact the vampires have been shoehorned in.

Based on the historical horror mash-up novel by Seth Grahame-Smith (whose other alternative rendering Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is still stumbling about in Development Hell), Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter works on the premise that ‘Honest Abe’ was little more than an ironic nickname.

Following the death of his mother in 1818, Abe (Benjamin Walker) spends his formative years plotting his revenge on her murderer, Barts. After a misjudged attempt, he is rescued by local eccentric Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper sporting a 19th-century mullet) who explains that Barts is a vampire. Henry promises to teach Abe the art of vampire hunting on the proviso that he ends his obsession with exacting his vengeance on his nemesis, remains incognito and forms no personal ties.

Abe agrees, completes his training (turns out he's handy with an axe) and moves to Springfield, Illinois where he continues to plot his revenge, gets involved with local politics and forms several close relationships. These include friendships with his manager Speed (Jimmi Simpson) and his childhood friend, African-American Will Johnson (Anthony Mackie), and a budding relationship with the beautiful Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).

The real Abe falls asleep and wonders what all this vampire nonsense is aboutThe real Abe falls asleep and wonders what all this vampire nonsense is about

Abe then deftly juggles his burgeoning political career and relationship with his extracurricular vampire slaying. His day job and his night job eventually collide when the first vampire, Adam (Rufus Sewell, in default villain mode), violently disagrees with his antislavery stance.

As alternative histories go, this one is pretty brazen. Grahame-Smith has adapted his own novel for this film, which is co-produced by Tim Burton and directed by Timur Bekmambetov, who previously festooned cinemas with his own unique take on vampire mythology in 2004's Night Watch and inferior sequel Day Watch.

Its makers could have gone one of two ways with the high concept and they chose to play it straight. This would have been commendable had the end result not still been utterly ridiculous.

First some positives.

The 3D is not just an aesthetic enhancement to your ticket price; bullets zing out of the screen, debris threatens to skim your eyeballs and vampires slaver over your kneecaps. The action is often genuinely thrilling, edge-of-your-seat stuff, and the finale is a truly incredible set piece. It is also a welcome novelty that the CGI-augmented bloodsuckers are unlikely to be the subject of any hormone-induced hysteria.

However, Bekmambetov's frenetic pacing makes for fragmented viewing. Fight scenes are so sliced and diced in the editing suite that the results are dizzyingly confusing and it's difficult to know which computer-generated image you're rooting for.

There are a number of awkward narrative leaps as the film quickly progresses Abe from shopkeeper to president, while keeping true to adding vampires to his timeline.

One moment Abe is rallying a crowd into a political frenzy, the next he's striding over the backs of stampeding horses to reach his foe (admittedly one of the film's most audacious moments). Unfortunately, the film never escapes the fact the vampires have been shoehorned in.

Walker's Abe is a buff re-imagining but a bland one. Winstead, who was so good as the inscrutable Ramona in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, is lovely as the young Mary Todd and helps to create a sweet romance for the film's middle section. However, she doesn't quite convince as the older, grief stricken Mary Lincoln (her ludicrously light ‘age’ make up compared with Walker's full face mask doesn't help).

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is silly rather than offensive, even if it is an indelicate assault on the eyes. If you're looking for a more serious take on this particular president's biography, Spielberg's Lincoln is due out later this year, which will have fewer vampires but unfortunately more schmaltz.

4/10

 

Abraham Lincoln in Manchester making sure there are no vampires in the Brazennose Street post officeAbraham Lincoln in Manchester making sure there are no vampires in the Brazennose Street post office - his axe is hidden down his trousers, that's why he's concentrating


 

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Jonathan SchofieldJune 25th 2012.

On my guided tours I've decided to develop this theme for Manchester so next week I'm launching Elizabeth Gaskell - Vampire Hunter Minx, Morrissey - Vampire Hunter Veggie, LS Lowry - Vampire Hunter Painter.....

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