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Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Genre Horror
 
Review:

Abraham Lincoln was the 16th U.S. President, who in his several years in office, led America through the Civil War, maintained the Union and ended slavery before he was assassinated in 1865. The great man has been immortalised, which explains why Steven Spielberg is releasing Lincoln, a biography starring Daniel Day-Lewis, and Seth Grahame-Smith's fantasy horror novel Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter has received the Hollywood treatment.

Just the title, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, makes you sit up and take notice. The concept is refreshing, essentially blending a dusty historical biography and blood-thirsty vampire horror into a hybrid beast with old world trappings and slick contemporary visuals. The result however, is neither brilliant nor terrible as most people would have expected.

The title in itself comes across as a joke, but the novel and retelling are dead serious, treating the story as fact instead of acknowledging its imaginative origins. There's no wink-wink, cheesy comedy or even sense of humour in this beautifully shot horror-thriller and this drags it down in the second half as historical events are reinterpreted and the truth is twisted with some ridiculous outcomes. The only underlying joke through the film is the choice of eye wear, which strongly suggests that Elton John is in fact a vampire.

The ensemble is solid with Benjamin Walker as the title star. He's like a young Liam Neeson with a balanced and well-composed performance that spans several decades. He maintains the intensity of his character and walks the tightrope between genres without looking down. He's ably supported by British actors Dominic Cooper (Devil's Double) and Rufus Sewell (A Knight's Tale), while Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker) and Mary Elizabeth Olstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) throw their weight behind the production with some fairly lightweight characters.

Timur Bekmambetov directs Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and was probably hired on the basis that he directed cult Russian vampire flicks, Day Watch and Night Watch. The fact that he directed the slick star-studded fantasy-thriller Wanted probably didn't hurt his chances either. Bekmambetov meets expectations when it comes to the visual artistry behind the spellbinding vampire action and grisly gore, but some of the supporting performances could have been tightened.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter has the same mechanics as Sam Raimi's Army of Darkness with a definite style and graphic novel sensibility. The difference is that Bruce Campbell was reprising his role for the third time with larger-than-life presence and a script that bristled with horror and comedy. There's just no tip of the hat to the audience, which lets the blood dry too quickly as the story becomes a little routine with eye candy the last line of defence against boredom.

In this sense, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is more in-line with the Underworld series - delivering a double dose of slick, violent vampire style action with a one trick pony twist of historical reinterpretation. Bekmambetov has got a great eye, but there's very little exploration beyond what could have easily been a revenge Western or video game.

There's plenty of horror eye candy, a refreshing genre hybrid, a solid cast and loads of promise at the heart of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. The problem is that it runs out of steam as the inside joke doesn't materialise, the tone remains deadpan and the ambitious story loses traction as the suspense of disbelief overstays its welcome. It's a rollicking blast of fun with heaps of entertainment value that charges over the halfway mark only to drift over the finish line.

The bottom line: Slick

 

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