Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – A Review
June 22, 2012
By: Becki Dickinson
On the opening day of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter I eagerly sought my nearest cinema, intent on watching anything about Mr Lincoln being associated as a secret hunter of the undead. I was not quite sure what to expect from the film – the trailer seemed promising, wetting my appetite for yet another vampire thriller and the gripping editing creating the allure of terror and suspense.
Having got to the cinema, I realised that the film was on in 3D, and the lover of film though I am, I remain a cynic about 3D films – it surely exists as a clever ruse only to draw in the crowds, and their money, without offering any further enjoyment of the film. Obviously there are films out there which are surely soul mates of the 3D franchise, such as Jurassic Park, fast-paced action films like Spiderman (just so we can see a spandexed man jump what would appear right through our eyeballs) and the occasional horror film such as (as much as I detest what I deem an unnecessary pornographic ‘film’ that it represents) Piranha – whose only redeemable quality was the enjoyment of having feisty little fish jump out at you, and witnessing the person next to you jump back in their seats as they believed they were under threat from a digital fish. Well, anyway, (rant over) my initial excitement at seeing the film dampened as I was forced to dish out the extra money to slap ridiculous glasses on my face (woman in black here I come), as I was convinced it would be a waste of time. Fear not avid cinema goers, it was definitely that little bit more enjoyable due to the sensation of feeling as though blood is splattering your face and to have severed vampire heads float before your very eyes – what more could you want?
Initially I was unconvinced my enjoyment of the film was consequential to it being in 3D; I couldn’t tell whether my enjoyment stemmed from the glasses perched on my nose, or whether it was just that damn entertaining. But as I stated, if you would like the previously mentioned benefits of an intimate experience with vampire heads and blood splattering, it is definitely worth splashing out the extra cash.
So, apart from the allure of one of history’s most famous and well-liked Presidents, what else did this film have to offer? Well, internationally acclaimed Meryl Streep’s son-in-law Benjamin Walker takes on the role of Mr Lincoln (no pressure there, what with being associated to Streep or taking on the role of a renowned President…) previously known for his roles in Flags of Our Fathers and Kinsey, accompanied by on-screen friend England’s own Dominic Cooper (who provides a little something for the ladies in the audience). Add to these two young talents another home grown English actor in Rufus Sewell who has a face perfect for any film or TV baddie, and you have the main characters in this bizarre but entertaining thriller. Cooper and Sewell have fantastic chemistry as they play the part of eternal enemies who are unable to kill each other, and although Walker may seem an unusual choice for the role of the President, he may have been chosen more for his appearance than his ability to effectively portray Mr Lincoln. Perhaps I’m being hard on Walker, but although he pulled off a moderately agreeable performance, at times he lacked conviction enough for the audience to believe in his being President Lincoln.
Maybe you’re thinking that the least of your worries is believing an actor is a former President, what with the film being about Vampires and a President being the male equivalent of Buffet The Vampire Slayer, oh I don’t know, some may believe there is no realism from the start. However, with the growing popularity of the filmic or novel vampire, it seems that what we all think about vampires is irrelevant – we all thirst for films which star them. We are enthralled by this mythic creature and more than that, we like a good vampire-human love triangle or battle. It’s indisputable. The portrayal of vampires in the film is very similar to what one would see on the American serial Supernatural; they are not the perfectly porcelain Edward Cullen, nor do they possess the neatly tucked away teeth the vamps in True Blood do. No, they are full on monsters that look fantastic when they lurch toward you in all their 3D glory/gory. They are sinister, scary even, not the picture perfect pale faced beauties of the Twilight sensation. There are a few theories about why we just can’t seem to resist these blood sucking deviants, ranging from the fact death is a difficult concept for us to grasp, and as vampires have human characteristics that allow us to relate to them, so can they transgress a great fear of ours – dying. Or, is it because we are attracted to their super powers, such as inhuman strength, the ability to read minds, and therefore their seductive power over us? This is apparently simultaneously worrying and fascinating – we are attracted to their power, even if it means we become vulnerable in the process. Unfortunately, there are a lack of (I will remain vague to avoid the risk of spoiling the film) vampires in this film that we become attached to, but our fascination still remains. The beautiful ancient Vampire Adam (Sewell) and his family of similarly beautiful vampires, including the kick ass seductive Erin Watson, an American supermodel who isn’t starred for her acting talents but for how undeniably sexy she looks in her skin tight vampire attire, are reasons enough for our fascination.
One of the indisputable successes of this film are the visuals – the graphics are fangtastic (excuse my enthusiasm…) and provide the va va voom to the action sequences for vampire hunter Lincoln and his human-vampire fisticuffs with Adam and co. Watching in 3D definitely compliments the special effects, with explosions, killings and war scenes all happening (literally) before your very eyes. Russian director Bekmambetov does a splendid job directing the action sequences and getting the best out of his cast, which we come to expect from him, due to his previous successful vampire franchises Daywatch and Nightwatch, and not forgetting sexy action-packed Wanted. We know when it comes to fast-paced electric thrillers Bekmambetov can deliver. However he famously once said “the most powerful special effect is the actor. All the visual style is an extension of character”, in which case despite the style of the film unquestionably its best asset, perhaps he falls short in delivering his powerful special effect, with Walker’s portrayal a little one dimensional and flat for a great President, let alone a supposedly sensational secret vampire hunter. Perhaps this fits in with the film’s concept he was a normal person by day and secretly a prolific vampire killer by night. But somehow I just wasn’t convinced, finding myself enjoying Sewell’s and Cooper’s performances a lot more – but who knows, perhaps this is all down to the allure of the vampire.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter has left audiences feeling a mixture of emotions – some believing that the concept and the title remain the film’s most successful elements, while some revel in its amusing absurdity, embracing the fast-paced and thrilling concoction Bekmambetov has brought to the screen. A word of advice before you go to watch the film, if you believe it to be a ridiculous concept, then you probably won’t enjoy it, but instead sit through the film criticising it and tutting at the hyperbolic (for which there are a few) sequences where our heroes manage to escape death terribly predictably when actually they should have been devoured by their vampire aggressors. If you think that it’s all a very fun and interesting idea, then go see it – you will be entertained. Who cares if its far-fetched and unrealistic, that’s why we go to the cinema instead of watching a documentary at home. This one is definitely a guilty pleasure you should see on a rainy afternoon – it will engage you for just under two hours, and then you can return to fang-free reality.