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Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter: Shouldn’t This Be A Lot More Fun?

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Directed by Timur Bekmambetov
Written by Seth Grahame-Smith based on his novel
Fox, 2012

So in this day and age of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, also written by Grahame-Smith, and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, where we try to look at well-known stories or figures under a different light, I expect a great deal of humor to come from that.  Jane Austen’s stories about ladies knowing their place and being proper, mixed with zombies and the like, has a great ring to it.  But in many ways, these stories are great titles and not much more.  It’s one joke, and the title is the best thing about it.  And this is what I feel about Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

But, this still could have been a lot of trashy fun.  With producer Tim Burton on board, and director Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted, Night Watch trilogy), it seemed like it had all the ingredients.  Instead, it feels entirely too serious for a movie with this title.  In all, there is very little humor in it.  And that surprised me, considering that’s what seems to be the whole point of introducing vampires into the Abraham Lincoln legend.

We see young Abraham lose his parents early.  After his father is unable to pay a debt, his mother is bitten by Jack Barts (Marton Csokas), a man who is in league with the movie’s main villain, Adam (Rufus Sewell, back as the bad guy like it’s the 90’s again).  His mother dies from the bite, and his father soon after, and the young man Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) has revenge on his mind.  He takes a crack at Barts and fails, but is saved by Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), a man who knows how to kill vampires and agrees to train Lincoln on how to do it.

He tells Lincoln this has to be his discipline, he can’t mix in a life with it.  But when Lincoln goes to Springfield, Illinois to work for Joshua Speed (Jimmi Simpson), he ends up falling in love with Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).  He runs into his old friend, the born-free Will Johnson (Anthony Mackie), who works for the Underground Railroad.  Lincoln is a store clerk by day, a vampire slayer by night, and occasionally, slowly, makes advances towards marrying Mary Todd.  The movie then sort of fast forwards through Lincoln’s law days and Presidential election.  We find out that vampires are all over the South and are striking deals with slave-holders to help them out in the Civil War.

This movie is a ridiculous mess, which is what I expected, but I thought at least there would be a sense of humor about it.  The movie is terribly lit and photographed: does anyone remember what video looked like on those old Sega CD games?  I remember playing the packed-in game Sherlock Holmes and the video on that was, of course, awful.  But hey, you got to see full-motion video on a video game console for the first time and it was cool because of it.  This is a movie…and it’s 2012…it’s unacceptable.

I really thought this might be bad, but fun bad.  Turns out it’s just bad.  Too bad.

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