Review in a Hurry: Hey, it doesn’t suck. Historical revisionism of monstrous proportions, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter presents the Great Emancipator as America’s first superhero—an obsessive hunter of the undead. Despite some story flaws, this genre mash-up has enough jolts, thrills and bloody-crazy action to slay you vampire freaks. Honest.
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The Bigger Picture: Ubiquitous author and screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) lent his dark humor to this summer’s Dark Shadows script. Reteaming with Tim Burton (who serves as producer), Grahame-Smith has now adapted his own best-selling vampire novel of the same name. But as with many big-screen adaptations, Lincoln sometimes splits at the seams from narrative cram.
As a young boy, Abe witnesses his mother’s murder at the hands—and fangs—of vampire/businessman Jack Barts (Marton Csokas). Vowing vengeance, adult Abe (Benjamin Walker) tries but fails to kill Barts and almost dies. He’s saved by veteran hunter Henry (Dominic Cooper), who mentors Abe in the art of slaughtering bloodsuckers.
Not-so-Honest Abe keeps his nocturnal hunting a secret from wife Mary (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, lovelier than the real Mrs. Lincoln). But as he advances in politics, becomes president and oversees the War, the two worlds collide, and he must defeat lead vampire Adam (Rufus Sewell), who plans to overtake the entire country.
After an engrossing and gross-enough setup, the film stumbles midway as it fails to dramatize important beats involving Henry and his two friends/cohorts—and tries to connect those story leaps with voiceover. A time jump to Lincoln as a bearded 50-year-old is also jarring.
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Though Walker isn’t especially charismatic as our greatest president and apparent savior, he establishes a sweet rapport with Winstead—and wields a wicked silver-tipped ax while lopping off vampire heads. A few fight scenes recall countless actioners since The Matrix, with long-coated adversaries battling in stuttery slow motion, but two extended sequences—one involving stampeding wild horses and the other aboard a speeding train—are spectacular.
Lincoln makes terrific use of depth in the frame, but looks murky and washed out, presumably from the 3-D conversion. Perhaps the 2-D version is as colorful as Grahame-Smith’s imagination.
The 180—a Second Opinion: There’s something distasteful—and dishonorable to the dead—about depicting the Battle of Gettysburg as a vampire attack, instead of the brother-against-brother horror that it was.
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