The combination of bizarrely well researched biographical information combined with vampire slaying action made Seth Grahame-Smith’s “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” novel a hit but most of the fun and grounded action of the novel have been replaced by lifeless, all flash, no substance action from Wanted’s Timur Bekmambatov.
AL:VH follows Abe Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) as he dedicates his life to killing vampires after his mother is killed by one and starts training with Henry Sturges, himself a vampire but who has also dedicated himself to eradicating the undead. Abe’s vampire killing prowess soon makes it to the South where an evil cabal of vampires, led by the sinister Adam, are manipulating the slave trade for their own, evil, purposes.
What the book did so well was blend actual events from Abe’s life with his vampire killing adventures. The movie pretty much jettisons all of Abe’s background, making only the barest nods to his law and political careers. You have no sense of how this slightly awkward but extremely dangerous man is able to become the president and the transition to the White House is incredibly jarring, with a hilariously bad attempt at making Abe, for the first time with a beard, look bad ass. In fact, most of the transitions and events of the movie are incredibly jarring and feel disconnected, with only Abe’s journal voice over giving any idea of what’s happening. Having read the book, I was able to fill in a lot of the gaps but if you haven’t read the book or know some of the details of Abe’s life, you will probably be incredibly lost. The main focus is on his relationshp with Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), which is cute at first but drags on until you start wondering if there’s actually going to be vampire hunting in this movie with the subtitle of “vampire hunter”. The movie also makes no attempt to ground Abe’s hunting prowess, in what feels like a week of training, he basically turns into a superhuman on par with someone like Blade, jumping off walls and dodging punches and kicks in slow motion while wielding his trusty axe with insane speed. The movie also gets rid of a ton of other characters and plots of the book and replaces them with a generic evil vampire who must be stopped story.
The one thing you would expect to be up to snuff with the director of Wanted is the action, but except for a couple of set pieces, the action is not very thrilling or original. It’s actually extremely stunted when showing the first couple of Abe’s kills, cutting away before showing anything, even though the movie is rated R. The finale is OK, even though the circumstances of why it is happening are completely ridiculous and there’s a brief but pretty cool battle in Adam’s plantation that finally shows off Abe’s axe prowess about an hour into movie. Where the movie lost me, however, was during an action sequence where Abe is finally able to hunt down the vampire who murdered his mother, Jack Barts, and Barts leads Abe on a chase through a stampede of horses, who just happened to be hanging out nearby. It truly highlights how Bekmambatov doesn’t really care if things are realistic, as long as it looks cool. Abe literally gets a horse thrown into him but he somehow ends up A) not dead and B) ready to ride it and pick up the chase after Barts. There’s definitely been better vampire action in movies like Blade and even the Underworld movies.
Given the choice, I would highly recommend you read the book and skip the movie as it is much more interesting and actually blends the history and action into a fun, exciting read. The movie is a mess of action trying way too hard to be stylish and no attempt to explore the Abe Lincoln side of Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Extremely disappointing.
2 out of 5