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'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter' is surprisingly enjoyable

Despite one-note characters, 'Lincoln' is entertaining for those willing to buy into the premise.

By Ben KendrickScreen Rant / June 22, 2012

'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter' actor Benjamin Walker (l.) manages to deliver a thoughtful performance as Lincoln despite outrageous escapades.

Stephen Vaughan/20th Century Fox/AP

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For moviegoers who are still unfamiliar with author (now screenwriter) Seth Grahame-Smith, the idea of an undead-slaying Honest Abe might seem especially ridiculous – but that’s only because Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter beat Grahame-Smith’s other well known horror mashup novel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, to the big screen. While Pride and Prejudice and Zombies continues to languish in preproduction hell, director Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) managed to bring Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter to fruition, barely two years after the source material book was first published (in March 2010).

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However, despite an intriguing (and purposefully absurd) premise, moviegoers have a plethora of vampire films to choose from, these days. Do Grahame-Smith and Bekmambetov manage to deliver a film adaptation that successfully juggles the campy setup and over-the-top action with intriguing alt-history tie-ins and enjoyable character/Presidential drama?

Fortunately, the answer is yes, assuming that moviegoers can suspend enough disbelief and lock into Grahame-Smith’s eccentric retelling of Abraham Lincoln’s secret monster-slaying nightlife. Certainly, anyone expecting a straightforward and grounded take on the life of Honest Abe should pass on the film (and look to Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln starring Daniel Day-Lewis), as Vampire Hunter is full of one-note characters, sometimes laughable attempts at tying the supernatural plot to real life events, and several over-the-top set pieces. That said, the mashup film is exactly what viewers should have expected from a Bekmambetov film about an axe-wielding President who fights to free America from slavery and undead bloodsuckers, alike.

For anyone unfamiliar with the alternate historical account depicted in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, the film (and source material novel) are centered around Abe’s secret diary, which includes the account of both his political – as well as supernatural – encounters, starting with the death of his mother at the hands of Jack Barts (Marton Csokas), a local businessman/vampire. After years of patiently waiting, Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) sets out to avenge his mother and encounters Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper) – who trains Abe in the art of vampire hunting and impressively choreographed axe wielding. Despite Henry’s instruction to avoid making friends or starting a family, Lincoln befriends a local shopkeep, Joshua Speed (Jimmi Simpson), courts Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and reconnects with childhood friend/free African-American, William Johnson (Anthony Mackie). Though, when vampire chief Adam (Rufus Sewell) forms an alliance with confederate separatists, Lincoln’s loved ones (as well as the country itself) are threatened – forcing the 16th President to take action in and outside of the political arena.

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