"Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” is not to be confused with the new Steven Spielberg film staring Daniel Day-Lewis as the 16th president. That biopic won’t be coming out until December. Where the upcoming Spielberg film is aiming to be a somber, historically accurate life story of our nation’s most celebrated leader, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” tells an action-packed, fictionalized account of how Honest Abe once fought against vicious vampires. The end result makes “Inglourious Basterds” look like a documentary. As preposterous and silly as “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” is, the movie does deliver genuine thrills and solid fun nevertheless. That’s really all one can ask from a film like this.
The picture is based on the novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, the same man who brought us the ingeniously titled “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” The story begins with a young Mr. Lincoln living a content life with his nurturing parents. Nancy Lincoln is killed one night, not from milk sickness as history books would have us believe, but from a vampire attack. Abe grows up into a man played by the remotely unknown Benjamin Walker, thirsty for revenge. He confronts the vampire who killed his mother one night with unsuccessful results. Lincoln decides to seek out the help of a vampire hunter named Henry Sturges, played by Dominic Cooper.
Henry discovers that Lincoln is gifted with an ax, which becomes his weapon of choice in the battle against bloodsuckers. After Lincoln completes his training, Henry sends him to the South to hunt vampires. Life has other plans for Lincoln, however, when he meets the lovely Mary Todd, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead of “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.” They get married and Lincoln eventually gets involved in politics, leading him on the road to the White House. Meanwhile, a group of vampires in the South plan on starting a civil war so they can triumph over the north. And I thought “True Blood” represented Southern vampires in a negative light.
Director Timur Bekmambetov, who previously made “Wanted,” was tailor-made for this material. He delivers a marvelously crafted picture with gothic sets, first-rate makeup, and some of the cooler-looking vampires to date. The action sequences are exciting and stylishly choreographed, particularly in a climax aboard a runaway train. “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” may be simple, dumb, mindless entertainment. But it’s rare to see mindless entertainment this well-made and well-acted with some occasional history cleverly integrated.
If anything hurts “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” it’s that the film takes itself a little too seriously. With a title like this, one would expect the film to be more knowingly satirical. But “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” treats the story with a strait face for the most part. In the hands of somebody like Joss Whedon, creator of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” this could have been a fanboy classic with equal parts humor and horror. As a summer action picture with lots of explosions though, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” still works in its own way.
Ahwatukee native and Desert Vista graduate Nick Spake is a student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for five years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.