High-concept historical fiction has seen a rise in popularity in recent years and from the same company that brought you Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters comes the equally awesomely-titled Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Directed by Wanted and Nightwatch helmsman Timur Bekmambetov, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter tells the story of how vampires helped back the South during the American Civil War.
Through a series of letters former President of the United States and historical icon Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) recounts the story of how he helped the North triumph while battling ancient vampires lead by Adam (Rufus Sewell). Having seen his mother killed at the hands of a slave trader/vampire, a young Abraham Lincoln vows revenge and is taken under the wing of Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper) who trains him in the art of combat, ready for the upcoming civil war, which is part-funded by vampires.
For a film so high in concept and title, Bekmambetov plays Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter surprisingly straight. There’s very little tongue-in-cheek behaviour or references and instead the audience are treated to a film that appears desperate to convince that it could be a reality. There’s nothing wrong with this approach in theory, but having chosen it why the director decided to have people jumping in slow motion and destroying trees with the ‘power of truth’ is beyond this reviewer.
The cast deal admirably with the source material and dry script, but in reality there’s not much for them to do outside of the constant and mind-numbing action scenes. Sewell is passable as growling uber-vamp Adam, but really a role like that deserves a little more scenery-chewing over-the-top villainy like Charlize Theron brought to her role in Snow White and the Huntsman. Dominic Cooper is good as you’d expect and actually brings a bit of depth to his character-with-a-secret while some solid support comes in the guise of Anthony Mackie and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Lead Benjamin Walker meanwhile, is fine as the titular Abraham Lincoln, but on this basis he’s unlikely to get any meaty roles in future blockbusters.
If you like your ridiculous high-conept, pseudo-historical action films to be serious, cut together with a strobe light and scored with the sound of booming cannons then Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is exactly for you. For those who don’t like to be assaulted by loud noises, dull stories and vacuous characters you would be better off avoiding.