Movie Review - Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Much Like a Vampire, It's Bloodless, And it Sucks
By Tom Houseman
June 25, 2012
I feel the need to warn you that if you go into Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter expecting a campy, fun, ridiculous action movie that is able to laugh at its own premise, you will hate this movie. You would expect a film with a title as silly as Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter to be unable or unwilling to take itself seriously, but this film proves you wrong. The film, adapted by Seth Grahame-Smith from his own novel and directed by Timur Bekmambetov, is a very serious film that mixes drama, action, and horror elements with barely a dash of comedy to lighten the mood, so if you enter the theater primed for something absurd or self-mocking, you will hate this movie.
I also feel the need to warn you that if you go into AL:VH with the knowledge that it is a very serious movie, and prepared to take it as seriously as it takes itself, you will still hate this movie, because it is a terrible movie. The film does indeed try to mix drama, action, and horror, but it fails miserably on all three counts. As a horror film it is obvious and meandering. Every intended scare seems telegraphed and straightforward, relying too often on the trick of flash of action and burst of music rather than coming up with anything legitimately scary. You might be startled the first couple of times, but the gag gets old fast.
As an action film it is dull. I am a huge fan of Timur Bekmambetov, as Night Watch and Day Watch contain some of the most extraordinary, mind-bending action sequences I have ever seen, and I even genuinely love Wanted. And yet the action sequences in AL:VH are not just uninspired but clumsy. Bekmambetov seems to have taken a lesson from Zack Snyder in how to make your action scenes look as dumb as possible, as multiple times in every sequence slow motion is agonizingly employed. But the moments for which time almost stops aren't even particularly interesting, which makes the effect even more irritating. Every action scene is too long, and none of them are any fun to watch.
But it is as a drama that AL:VH reaches its highest heights of failure. Grahame-Smith attempts to infuse a dramatic narrative into the film as a way to either lend it some sort of gravitas or make us care about the characters, but either way the attempt is so awful that it just drags the rest of the film down into the mud and kicks it repeatedly. The characters are painfully underdeveloped, which makes it impossible to have any vested interest in them. In particular, the relationship between Abe and Mary Todd is so lazy, and there is so little romantic connection between them, that their romance just seems like a way to make the film seem even longer, and it really doesn't need the help. The villains are not just one-dimensional, which is expected, but dull, which is frustrating, because you would hope at least for ostentatious antagonists in a movie this vapid.
Fort a movie that takes itself as seriously as this one does (in case I haven't made it clear yet: very) you would think that Bekmambetov and Grahame-Smith would have put more effort into the logic of the story. There are enormous plot holes that make absolutely no sense and weaken the narrative far past the breaking point. Most frustratingly, the rules for vampires in the film are nonsensical and inconsistent. Apparently, these vampires are not sensitive to the sun, are allowed to enter any building, can only be killed not by wooden stakes but by silver, and are physically incapable of killing other vampires, except when they can, which is sometimes. Other than their propensity for sucking blood there is no reason to call these creatures vampires.
Even the fleeting attempts at fun in the film end up missing completely. The dialogue is mostly flat and wooden, in addition to being frequently anachronistic, and the quips sound like they might have been clever in 1860, but now just sound dumb. The rare moments that are allowed to be ridiculous and over-the-top feel like they belong in a different movie, one that does not take itself so seriously. With weak performances all around, especially Benjamin Walker's bland attempt at being simultaneously dignified and awkward, this movie has almost nothing going for it. But hey, at least the title is clever and fun, right?