Saved from a certain bloodletting by Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), Abe is taken in and trained by Henry in the ways of vampire hunting. While Abe still harbors a thirst for vengeance, Henry has bigger plans in mind: he wants him to be a secret agent of sorts, living a quiet, unassuming life while secretly awaiting orders to assassinate undercover vampires (who can, in this incarnation, walk in the sunlight).
In between shopkeeping and vampire slaying, Abe finds time to woo Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), study law and become a politician, utilizing his newfound political power to push for the abolition of slavery as a means of depriving the Southern-dominant vampires of their slave food source. In doing so, he draws the ire of ancient vampire Adam (Rufus Swell), who's determined to throw a bloody wrench in the aspiring president's plans, regardless of how many lives it costs.
The End Result
Seth Grahame-Smith, who wrote both the novel and the script upon which it's based, is better at concocting ideas and writing period dialogue than penning a complete script (as he showed in Dark Shadows), so while the concept of an axe-wielding, kung fu-kicking Abe Lincoln is intriguing and the association of slavery with vampirism is clever, the overall plot is straightforward and dry -- granted, no doubt constrained somewhat by its adherence to some level of historical accuracy -- and the characters (except perhaps for Mary, whom Winstead portrays with as much gusto as the writing allows) dull and lifeless.
The screenplay just lacks the sense of fun that the concept begs. The movie doesn't have to be a campy, overly self-aware comedy, but it lacks a certain over-the-top nature and could benefit from channeling something along the lines of Kill Bill. Some of the fault has to lie with director Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted), who butchers action sequences with overuse of cartoonish CGI effects and busy visuals that move so quickly you can't appreciate what's going on. His style plays against the more classy, occasionally spectacular epic-scale imagery provided by Oscar-nominated cinematographer Caleb Deschanel (The Right Stuff, The Natural), making you wish another producer -- Tim Burton -- had stepped into the director's chair instead of Bekmambetov.
Certainly, no one expects great cinema from Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and it will no doubt satisfy those seeking little more than a few cheap popcorn thrills -- more action than horror, although the toothy vampires are effectively ferocious -- but it fails to live up to its premise and ends up a fairly predictable one-trick pony.
- Acting: C (Winstead is the only one who comes across as human.)
- Direction: C- (Hyperkinetic and overly CGI-reliant.)
- Script: C- (A cool concept that takes itself too seriously.)
- Gore/Effects: C+ (A solid amount of gore, but given the quirky concept, should've been more over-the-top; cartoonish digital effects.)
- Overall: C (Sporadically entertaining summer fare that can't live up to its premise.)
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is directed by Timur Bekmambetov and is rated R by the MPAA for violence throughout and brief sexuality. Release date: June 22, 2012.