Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Fri, Jun 22, 2012, 01:00

Directed by Timur Bekmambetov. Starring Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell, Marton Csokas 15A cert, general release, 104 min

THE CONFEDERACY has been overrun by the Undead. The President wields an axe that doubles as a shotgun. Every second moment something that hasn’t yet exploded decides to explode. Other than that, how was the film, Mrs Lincoln?

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, a film whose title supersedes any synopsis, arrives a little late to the party. It’s not just that we’ve been worn down by vampires. The literary craze for equipping 18th-century icons with stakes and silver bullets played itself out a good two years ago. Various Jane Austen characters have had a go. Even Scrooge and Robinson Crusoe have confronted the malign immortals.

Derived from Seth Grahame-Smith’s 2010 novel, AL:VH, not surprisingly, ends up playing like a high-concept in search of a film. That noted, you would have a hard time arguing that it’s dull. Timur Bekmambetov, the Kazakhstani director of Wanted, bows to nobody in his determination to construct set pieces that test the viewer’s capacity for off-the-chart insanity. The early scene involving stampeding horses seems quite tame when set beside the closing conflagration involving a burning train atop a burning bridge surrounded by (I think) an entire continent on fire. It’s rather a shame that yawning voids occupy the places where we usually expect to find characters.

Bekmambetov has not been lucky with his leading man. Benjamin Walker (Meryl Streep’s son-in-law, don’t you know) is a decent actor and he looks so like Abraham Lincoln that he looks a little like Liam Neeson. But he never quite musters the weighty charisma: if anyone is looking to cast a film called Warren G Harding: Zombie Slayer, then he’s probably the man to call.

The plot slaves (no pun intended) so hard to make something supernatural of the Civil War that it has no time left for any emotional groundwork. The vampires look like vampires. Ho hum. The 3D cinematography is as dull as ever. Ho hum, again.

Still, AL:VH is so agreeably energetic that it proves hard to despise. As the vampire craze dies down, we may have to face four score and seven years before seeing its like again.