Published: 21 June, 2012
by DAN CARRIER
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Directed by Timur Bekmambetov
Rating 4 Out Of 5 Stars
You’ve got to love Abraham Lincoln, the man who turned around to his fellow countrymen and said: “Enough!” His story is as heroic as you could possibly want in terms of the mythmaking about nation-building across the pond.
But it’s obviously not exciting enough for Hollywood.
They have decided that Lincoln was not just the Father of the Nation, the self-educated man who said no to slave-owning Southerners, put his talents to the disposal of the rest of the country, and called for economic as well as political emancipation.
No, that’s not enough. For in this film we discover old Abe, who during the day was a tub-thumping politico, and at night stalked town streets and country lanes wielding a silver-tipped axe, lopping bits off racist Southern vampires.
We meet young Abe (Benjamin Walker) as he watches his best friend (who happens to be black) get a whipping from a slave owner.
Later he watches his mum get killed by the man responsible for the beating – and he vows his revenge.
In a bar, he meets shady Henry (Dominic Cooper) who warns him that the man who killed his mum has a terrible secret – he is a vampire!
Young Abe is then trained to be a ruthless destroyer of the undead, and sets out on a hyper-violent adventure to rid the world of this evil.
The plot is tallied with the political issues of the day. As Abe rises towards the White House, he has deadly battles to fight with fang-toothed baddies.
Director Timur Bekmambetov has taken set-piece moments – the Civil War and the Gettysburg Address, for example – and rewritten them to include a vampire angle.
This is an ambitious project which at no point takes itself seriously.
They must have ordered in a couple of super-tankers’ worth of blood to lavishly swill about the place and it relies heavily on comic-book values.
Brilliantly choreographed and with oodles of eye-watering special effects, the many action scenes owe their creation to Hong Kong Kung-Fu films, and some parts (particularly when a painted wall frieze comes to life) are wonderfully artistic.
America of the 1800s has rarely looked so good. The vistas created by Bekmambetov and his producer Tim Burton are huge canvases, to say the least.
The reinvention of Lincoln as a vampire hunter is a hilarious idea and before I settled down to watch this film I was determined to enjoy it – just putting “Vampire Hunter” after his name is so wrong, it’s right.
Let’s be frank: it’s very, very silly stuff but all the better for it and, as far as summer blockbusters go, I doubt we’ll see one as original in its execution as this.
Despite the silliness, some of the battle moments are as gruesome as the real thing.
An aside: one scene reminded me of a book called The Surgeon of Crowthorne, which tells of how a doctor who had to deal with horrific injuries caused in the Civil War battlefields went mad and then spent his life helping write the Oxford English Dictionary. Worth a read if you’re not at the movies.