Sunday, February 28, 2016

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Film Review


It’s hard not to laugh at the title of this film.  The idea of the 16th President of the United States battling vampires; the American Civil War being symbolically turned into a battle by humans trying to save themselves from an undead doomsday; these are the two primary creative rewrites of American history that this film has to offer audiences.

By blending history and monsters, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter has a goofy premise that has a lot of entertainment potential.  Unfortunately the movie likes to take itself too seriously at times, and the clash between the ridiculous and the poor dramatic plots and acting create a clash in the film that cannot be saved by its fun action sequences.

Starting in his youth, this movie chronicles Abraham Lincoln’s early life through his ascendency to the presidency of the United States.  Along the historical journey, viewers learn how honest Abe becomes a vampire hunter.

As Lincoln develops his vampire hunting skills, he learns that the most powerful vampires in the U.S. are behind the creation of the Confederacy which plans on continuing their heinous practice of owning slaves and creating a nation of the undead.  It’s up to Lincoln to stop the vampires and the Confederacy.

One of the greatest expectations I had from the marketing of this film was that the plot was going to be about Abraham Lincoln fighting vampires in the Civil War.  The film instead functions more like a biopic, chronicling Lincoln from his youth and creating incidents with vampires that loosely correspond with his personal history.

Although a biopic styled film offers a great platform for developing a character, the problem with biopics is that they are often used to create dramatic films. Following Lincoln and trying to make him a sympathetic character via dramatic acting sequences in a film entitled Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter simply does not work.

A number of real life friends and contemporaries of Lincoln are cast in this film including Mary Todd, William Johnson, and Joshua Speed.  It’s fun to see these historical figures being portrayed in a vampire film, but when these characters have to interact in a dramatic sequence, they commit some of the worst acted moments in the film.

The film is not entirely derailed by poor acting but rather by the concept of inserting too much drama into a film that is clearly meant to be ridiculous.  One of the worst dramatic moments of this film ironically commits the same groaner of a mistake that Spielberg made in his adaption of Lincoln, which was trying to create emotional and patriotic sentiment via the reading of the Gettysburg address.  If you thought the reading of the Gettysburg Address was bad in Spielberg’s film…

The plot suffers from weak explanations for why the vampires and the Confederacy are working together.  The filmmakers appear to have hoped that the viewers would just equate vampires and the Confederacy as naturally allied antagonists for the sake of the film, rather than develop an interesting story behind their unnatural co-existence.

The film does provide some measure of entertainment.  Despite issues with the supporting cast, Rufus Sewell is convincing as the evil vampire father Adam, and all things considered Benjamin Walker holds his own while portraying a much fictionalized version of Lincoln.

The action sequences are fun to watch, a lot which resemble the style of action scenes that were seen in 300, although there is less blood and gore – but not that much less.  One particular action sequence involving horses is so over the top that it’s impossible not to laugh while at the same time be entertained by the display occurring on screen.

Watching Lincoln decapitate vampires with an axe that also functions as a gun is exactly the type of ridiculous this movie needs.  Unfortunately, maintaining that type of absurdity throughout the film’s duration proves to be too difficult for the filmmakers, and instead the film resorts to inserting cliched dramatic plot lines to fill in the gaps. Despite having the potential with a fun idea; this unique take on the U.S.’s 16th President unfortunately is a let down.

Score: 6.3

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