“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” is just like it sounds. It’s Abraham Lincoln, hacking through vampires with a silver-edged axe. And, somehow, it’s boring.
Ridiculous action movies with silly premises are not inherently bad. Certainly the idea of Abe Lincoln slaying Confederate, slave-owning bloodsuckers is fun. But when you actually see the action scenes, over-saturated with shoddy CGI and enough slow motion to extend the film’s length by a few minutes, it becomes apparent that something has gone wrong.
The story spans Lincoln’s life. After young Abe Lincoln’s (Benjamin Walker, “The War Boys”) mother is killed by a vampire, he vows revenge. He learns the ways of slaying undead from a jaded vampire hunter (Dominic Cooper, “Captain America: The First Avenger”) while studying law and meets his future wife (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”). Eventually, Lincoln must choose how he wants to save his nation: kill the vampires and their leader Adam (Rufus Sewell, “The Illusionist”) or end slavery through political action.
Even though the story follows Lincoln from cradle to grave, don’t think it takes a long look at his life. It has a problem with transitions, trying to sum up big changes in single scenes, so the sections of Lincoln’s life it focuses on feel disjointed. Characters from Lincoln’s early life show up later with no explanation of how they got there, and you can tell the movie just wants to rush along to the next big action set piece.
The performances are mostly clumsy but don’t stray into ‘memorably awful’ territory often. Sewell stands out as Adam, the arrogant plantation-owning leader of the vampires, and he makes the Southern gentleman vampire a joy to watch. The cast members play their roles stern-faced. If they think the whole affair is stupid, they don’t show it. You can have some fun watching the ever-serious expressions on the actors’ faces even in the midst of absurdity.
“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” wouldn’t be worth a penny if it didn’t take advantage of its setting with some historical cameos. It handles these about as subtly as an axe to the face. Every time a place or person from Civil War history is introduced, the movie pauses for a second, as if the entire film is winking at you and nudging your elbow. It could be construed as endearing or insulting, depending on the viewer.
People who just want to see some fight scenes and vampires will be pleased. The vampires look ferocious and appear often, though their horrific nature is abused. By the fifth time the movie pulls the same jump scare on you it’s not shocking, but predictable and annoying. The fight scenes, rife with slow motion, are generally over-stylized but they’re at least easy to follow and can occasionally deliver satisfying moments.
If you see the movie in 3D, it’s a small blessing and a big curse. The 3D is often used subtly, to enhance depth-of-field and make the calmer scenes more absorbing. It’s also used in the opposite way, focusing on objects hurtling toward the camera in a way that is utterly obnoxious. Additionally, it blurs the action scenes a bit, making the frenetic fight scenes harder to follow.
Stumbling far more than soaring, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” doesn’t deliver much ludicrous, guilty enjoyment. It’s an idea worthy of a few chuckles, but better suited to viewings on daytime cable than on the big screen.