I have been blessed this summer to catch an inordinate number of movies thanks in part to wonderful bargains. Speaking of which I went to Best Buy yesterday and bought Spider-Man 2 on Blu-Ray for $9.99 with a FREE ticket for the new The Amazing Spider-Man movie and The Mummy (1999) on Blu-Ray for $7.99 with a FREE ticket for the new The Bourne Legacy so it looks like my lucky thrifty streak will continue (that and $5 Tuesday at our local Epic theater).
Recently I got to see two incredibly similar films: Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter and Dark Shadows. I love vampire movies but both of these left a lot to be desired. The picture above was more entertaining than Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.
One-line Review: Funny premise ruined through indifferent acting, poor direction and extremely poor writing.
Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter (2012) – Rated R for violence throughout and some sexuality.
“At the age of 9, Abraham Lincoln witnesses his mother being killed by a vampire, Jack Barts. Some 10 years later, he unsuccessfully tries to eliminate Barts but in the process makes the acquaintance of Henry Sturgess who teaches him how to fight and what is required to kill a vampire. The quid pro quo is that Abe will kill only those vampires that Henry directs him to. Abe relocates to Springfield where he gets a job as a store clerk while he studies the law and kills vampires by night. He also meets and eventually marries the pretty Mary Todd. Many years later as President of the United States, he comes to realize that vampires are fighting with the Confederate forces. As a result he mounts his own campaign to defeat them.”
I guess the most salient point to bring up is that Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter is unabashedly serious. Despite a wonderfully ludicrous premise, there is no tongue-in-cheek here. Honestly there is almost no humor to be found in the movie at all. I thought the movie should have been played as The Princess Bride where everyone seemed in on the joke. There is no problem with a movie being earnest – Michael Mann’s The Last of the Mohicans is an action adventure film transplanted into the French & Indian war era, is deadly earnest and yet works great on an adventure level and on a romantic one.
Timur Bekmambetov’s strengths as a director are in the visual arts. His Nightwatch and Daywatch films are visual marvels and his American debut in Wanted was fun in its visual absurdity (though the narrative suffered from having been severely toned down from the graphic novel). Handing the reins of a vampire tale set during the civil war era to Bekmambetov seems a natural fit, especially since Nightwatch and Daywatch featured supernatural creatures.
The visuals in Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter range from good to marvelous but none of the scenes create a sense of intimacy. There is a spectacular fight in the middle of a herd of stampeding horses as well as an equally spectacular fight aboard a train crossing a burning bridge. That is about all the good I have for Abraham.
The other fight scenes are often done as a blur of movement, presumably to convey the speed of the vampires (some of the vampires just disappear). Unfortunately this is just a variation on the shaky cam action scene so the action ends up being less than satisfying…and this is an action movie.
The vampires themselves are disappointing. For creatures that hide who they are, they attack constantly in full view of crowds during broad daylight and when they attack they don’t look human at all though the CGI effects are very unimpressive – well executed just not well thought out. If you want to see a modern vampire movie with a new variation on vampires, try 30 Days of Night. The 30 Days vampires are scary.
Despite having a whiz-bang premise, the writing is simply dreadful. The ideas are good – Abraham Lincoln fighting vampires is awesome and many of the ideas are simply extrapolated from that so I suppose I should just say the central premise is good. Unfortunately dialogue ranges from flat to obvious to cornball to historical. The script is written by Seth Grahame-Smith who adapted his own novel.
Benjamin Walker is interesting as Lincoln but he has no presence. He comes across as very bland which is neither a good take on Lincoln nor a vampire-slayer. That’s okay though because everyone in the movie comes across as bland. The two main antagonists don’t feel menacing in any way and really just feel an excuse for the two action setpieces. I don’t believe I have ever seen a big budget movie that was so poorly cast.