'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter': It's ridiculous, honestly
A movie review of "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," a lurid bit of nonsense that turns the rail-splitter (played by Benjamin Walker) into a vampire head-splitter, with plenty of spatter.
Special to The Seattle Times
'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,' with Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell. Directed by Timur Bekmambetov, from a screenplay by Seth Grahame-Smith, based on a novel by Grahame-Smith. 105 minutes. Rated R for violence throughout and brief sexuality. Several theaters.
He doesn't look anything like him.
The "he" here is actor Benjamin Walker. The "him" is Abe Lincoln. When you're the star of a picture called "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," you've got a problem. It's not the movie's only one.
We know Lincoln's face: gaunt, haunted, projecting sorrow, compassion and strength of character.
Walker's face is soft, bland, unremarkable. His acting, likewise. And with the glue-on beard he wears in "Vampire Hunter's" second half, Walker looks faintly ridiculous. As for the movie itself: really ridiculous.
The title says it all. Rail-splitter as vampire head-splitter? How do you meld those two concepts?
On the printed page, novelist Seth Grahame-Smith pulled it off. In his 2010 best-seller, he posited that Lincoln's loved ones — his mother, a sweetheart, his child — fell prey to thirsty bloodsuckers. Then, when he finds out vampires are running the slave trade and using slaves as food, why it's time to whip out a silver-bladed ax and start vengefully cleaving craniums. Oh, and the Civil War was really fought to save the country from vampirekind. It made sort-of sense in the book. On the big screen, not so much.
Grahame-Smith scripted the picture and dumbed his story down. Timur Bekmambetov — a Russian filmmaker who made his name internationally with two indie vampire pictures, "Night Watch" and its sequel "Day Watch," and then went to Hollywood and made "Wanted" — took Grahame-Smith's screenplay and went all lurid on it.
His Abe is an ax-twirling, wire-work-leaping dealer of doom, spraying the scenery with slo-mo spatter.
The storytelling is haphazard, to say the least. One minute, Abe is a country lawyer speechifying in Springfield. Then — zap! — he's being sworn in as president. And — zing! — he's issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. Then — zoom! — Gettysburg.
Inserted haphazardly along the way are big computer-generated set pieces — a stampede, a ballroom fight, a battle on a speeding train — all chaotically staged.
Sigh. If you believe Lincoln is a secular saint, then "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" is nothing short of sacrilege.
Soren Andersen: firstname.lastname@example.org