reviewed by Tom-Tom
It would be wrong not to take this film seriously just because the title and premise are so boldly tabloid-like. It takes itself very seriously but not overly so. The screenplay was written by the author of the original book, Seth Grahame-Smith. We get the well cast Benjamin Walker, who looks just like old Honest Abe, in the opening moments reflecting on his “other life” and how it began when he was just a boy. Lincoln’s mother dies a mysterious death after a dispute with Papa Lincoln’s employer concerning slavery. Slavery will come to have a big and important role in the life mission of the man destined to become President as well as, you guessed it, a Vampire Hunter.
We flash forward to Abe’s college years. He’s a tall, lean, well built youth taking a fortifying drink before attempting to go after the man responsible for his mother’s death. He succeeds or so he thinks until the body disappears when he glances away. He’s way out of his depth until a short bearded man comes to his rescue. The man reveals he is Henry and that vampires are real. He trains Lincoln in the ways of protection in a rather sped up montage involving a lot of ax twirling. Silver kills vampires, blah, blah, we’ve heard it before. Abe’s to have no attachments, no friends at all, for risk of endangering them until he receives word on which vampire to go after. It turns out that slavery is just an excuse for the Vampiric Confederacy to have a ready made blood bank under its power with 24 hour a day access. Given free reign, the young nation is liable to fall under the banner of the Undead States. A well thought out alternate history, methinks.
Abe isn’t an instant hero. He makes mistakes and is rather clumsy. The vampires are well, a bit overdone, with retractable fangs that expand impossibly up and out of their faces and helpful unseen wires which help them bounce and flip around like Sonic the Hedgehog. Abe’s early clumsiness is partly what we like about the young man and why we fear for and root for him. Not only against vampires do we cheer for Abe but for the hand of the lovely Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) despite Henry’s warnings about attachments.
Years pass and Lincoln puts his ax away for law books and elected offices which results in his inauguration as President of the United States. Tragedy strikes and he is forced to attempt to solve the issue of vampirism and slavery once and for all. Harriet Tubman makes an important appearance which I will leave you to enjoy. The battle scenes are CGI heavy and while action packed, have a sort of surrealism about them which eliminates most of the suspense.
This doesn’t keep the last thrilling train ride from being exciting fun with added high stakes and a nice twist redolent of The Road Warrior. The climatic train top battle breaks certain rules put in place earlier in the film. It is also entirely over the top as Abe, Henry, Will (Anthony Mackie) and Speed fight for their very lives and the future of the country..
Walker as Lincoln delivers his Gettysburg Address with moving gusto which, along with his last trip to the theater, is a fitting end to the tale of the Presidential Vampire Hunter.