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ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER 3D (15) Action/Adventure/Horror/Romance. Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell, Jimmi Simpson, Anthony Mackie, Robin McLeavy, Marton Csokas, Erin Wasson. Director: Timur Bekmambetov.
Blame it on Twilight. Author Seth Grahame-Smith seized upon the idea for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter during a promotional book tour for his 2009 parody Pride And Prejudice And Zombies.
It was the year marking the bicentenary of Lincoln’s birth and authors Stephenie Meyer and Charlaine Harris were riding high in the best-seller lists with their Twilight and The Southern Vampire Mysteries books. Seeing displays for these two disparate subjects side by side, Grahame-Smith decided to re-write the personal history of the 16th president of the United States and re-imagine the Civil War as a fight between the Union and the vampire-riddled Confederacy.
A bizarre premise becomes a dull, disjointed slog on the big screen, even with the directorial brio of Kazakhstan-born film-maker Timur Bekmambetov, who encountered the creatures of the night in his special effects-laden hits Night Watch and Day Watch.
Balletic, gravity-defying action sequences arc the blood of the undead at the camera in glorious 3D as the script, adapted by Grahame-Smith himself, lollops through 45 years in Lincoln’s life, culminating in The Battle of Gettysburg.
As a boy in Pigeon Creek, Indiana, Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) witnesses his beloved mother Nancy (Robin McLeavy) fall victim to vampire Jack Barts (Marton Csokas), who lives among the humans as a slave trader.
Abraham swears revenge and is tutored in the finer points of vampire extermination by enigmatic mentor Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), who despatches his pupil to Springfield in 1837 to hunt down the fanged fiends.
Gradually, Abraham embarks on a political course as a fervent abolitionist, using words as weapons rather than his trusty axe.
“I sent you to Springfield to hunt vampires not chase votes!” scolds Henry, who counsels Abraham against forming personal attachments. His words fall on deaf ears and Abraham marries Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and they raise a family.
Meanwhile, chief vampire Adam (Rufus Sewell) and his sister Vadoma (Erin Wasson) prepare to attack Abraham’s family in order to stop his crusade for equality for all men. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a snappy title that promises much but delivers sporadic, slow-motion thrills and (blood) spills.
Walker is a bland, unappealing hero, almost completely devoid of humour and charm. His seriousness is matched by the rest of the cast, who have all seen better days. Elaborate, overblown stunts, including a ludicrous sequence aboard a railroad train and a stampede, are a welcome distraction.
There is a faintly tragic air to the dour hero, who we know will be assassinated by John Wilkes Booth during a performance of the play Our American Cousin. Indeed, Bekmambetov’s film gives an explicit signal of the impending doom as Abraham’s wife chides him for his tardiness. “Abraham, you’re going to be late for the theatre!” she despairs.
We share her sense of exasperation.