Poor Abe Lincoln.
First, there was the Civil War and that whole assassination thing. Now, there's this: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, a horror-thriller about the Rail Splitter as demon slayer that's about as dull as one of his axes that has been left out in the Illinois winter.
Admittedly, the whole conceit's a cute idea. It's based on Seth Grahame-Smith's 2011 novel of the same name that was part of the literary mashup craze that also included Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, Mansfield Park and Mummies, and Android Karenina. Although the book possessed a breathless energy, proving an engrossing, if disposable, read, the movie skips the first part and goes straight to disposable.
Benjamin Walker (Flags of Our Fathers) is Lincoln, a man who was traumatized as a child by seeing his mother killed by a vampire. He vows revenge, teaming with Henry Sturges (Dominic Cooper, My Week With Marilyn), a man who has been hunting vampires across the ages and becomes Abe's Mr. Miyagi, teaching him the art and zen of creature killing. Their goal: to take down Adam (Rufus Sewell, John Adams), a vampire kingpin.
As it turns out, the Civil War and all that goes along with it was just a ruse for a vampire takeover of America and the only thing standing between them and us is Abe's passion for life, liberty and the pursuit of the undead.
If only producer Tim Burton, screenwriter Grahame-Smith (who makes several key deviations from the book, not always for the better) and director Timur Bekmambetov (who made the cheeky and underrated 2008 action flick Wanted) didn't take themselves and the material so seriously. You half-expect Ken Burns to start narrating. Any sense of fun has been drained from the premise, like so many of the vampires' victims.
It doesn't help that Walker is about as stiff as a stovepipe hat or that the action set pieces are mostly predictable and plodding (though the chase through a thundering herd of stampeding horses has its over-the-top CGI moments). It's also another example of needless 3-D.
On the positive side, the vampires are hideous, fanged monsters, not the bloodless boys of Twilight nor the seductive sirens of True Blood. Plus, the African-American characters, who are mostly backdrops in the novel, play a key role, mostly in the form of Abe's childhood friend Will (Anthony Mackie, Man on a Ledge). Even Harriet Tubman makes an appearance. Who knew she had to fight vamps along the Underground Railroad, too? And Lincoln's wife, Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), even gets to get her bloodsucker-killing groove on.
Here's the best thing, though: Unless the filmmakers plan to bring back Lincoln as a ghost, there can't be a sequel.
Cary Darling, 817-390-7571