Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Art & Culture

With a title like this, you wouldn't expect any kind of masterpiece, but you might at least hope for some cheap thrills. What you get instead is a dull interminable piece of cliche-ridden nonsense that is as short on thrills as it is on authenticity. Spare yourself the trouble.

At the beginning of next year, you will have the chance to see Steven Spielberg's film, Lincoln, starring Daniel Day Lewis, which promises to be everything this film isn't, and while I have no objection to film makers playing fast and loose with history, I do feel that we have a right to expect something more entertaining for our money. Instead, this feels like a film title in search of a film.

We meet young Lincoln back in 1818 when trying to rescue his best friend (a black kid) from a beating by a slave driver. His mother is subsequently killed, and his father dies. He is desperate for revenge, and is lucky enough to come across Henry Sturgess who saves his life, explains that the man he is trying to kill is a vampire, then trains him to be a vampire-killer in his own right. Lincoln's weapon of choice is an axe, whose blade he coats with silver, in order to make his swing more lethal, and then he's ready to take on his arch enemy, Adam (Rufus Sewell).

Yes, of course he becomes president – we don't depart that far from the truth – and there are a few cursory nods in the direction of accuracy, but overall, this is a Timur Bekmambetov film. For those not familiar with his name (most of you), he is a Russian director whose most recent Hollywood movie, Wanted, was a series of slow motion set pieces without a coherent plot. However by comparison with ALVH, it is a model of clarity and logic. Bekmambetov is a man in love with special effects, and a complete indifference to actors. Poor Benjamin Walker (who looks like a cross between David Morrissey and Liam Neeson) has very little scope to impress as the bearded president, and the rest of the cast fares no better. But what can you expect from a director whose idea of an action sequence is to have men vaulting across the backs of a stampeding herd of horses? Realism gets short shrift.

Worse still is the way that the Lincoln-as-axe-murderer scenes are filmed. There's an awful lot of jumping in the air, twirling the axe like a cheerleader's baton, and then slicing through the neck of an unwary vampire while blood splatters across the room in comic book slow motion. But this is not an exciting way of shooting action sequences, since it becomes a kind of ballet, lacking in tension and originality; and it keeps happening over and over. In fact there's almost no excitement in the film whatsoever, which is a problem for an action movie. There really seems to be no point to the film at all. Knowing what we do of Lincoln as a real man (and a great president), we need something more than a bloke with a big chopper, up against a nation infested with vampires, especially when it goes on for an hour and three quarters.

There is the occasional moment where you think there might be a hope of something unusual, but it is soon buried in an avalanche of overkill, which proves beyond any shadow of a doubt that more is less. In this case, a great deal less.


By Phil Raby

Front Row Films

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