Film Review: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Happenstance writer Seth Grahame-Smith made a name for himself by cutting and pasting zombies into a PDF of Jane Austen’s most famous book, here he follows up his unwieldy Dark Shadows screenplay with a lumpy adaptation of his mock-biography of the 16th president. The fatal flaw in his work comes in his inability to match his mad concepts with storytelling formula; the plots of his both scripts feature one note high-concepts and a forward momentum that doesn’t so much drive a narrative as it does drag it through a briar patch.
The high concept melding Grahame-Smith dabbles in of itself has no real footing, when you can’t get a grip on pacing any complaints of inconsistent tone become glaringly prominent. The life and times of Lincoln is modified and covered thoroughly (with the notable exception of Forbes Theatre and John Wilkes Booth) and Timor Bekmambetov peddles everything at such breakneck pace that nothing gels. At 105 minutes the rollercoaster suplexes the film into overkill. Making things worse is the film’s clumsy appropriation of fantasy into historical fact. Just because Abraham Lincoln met Joshua Speed doesn’t mean that Speed must be reworked into a fellow vampire hunting compatriot. The binding that glues Lincoln’s life with the script’s pulp connective tissue is dangerously thin, betraying the total lack of traction in such an insipid concept. Coupled with the slim duration and impatient direction, the crowded proceedings are stampeded through the eye of a needle.
The fact that these vampires are daywalkers is a demonstration of the film’s tonal problems. It’s an established fact that the default style in horror has of course become action cinema, but with a premise as silly as this; garlic, stakes and holy water should have been the order of the day. Having vampires out in broad daylight means we can see them (nightshoots are expensive, just so you know) and the action can be racked up into Matrix proportions: vampires lunge, leap and morph in and out of Van Helsing-style CG fangs constantly. The undead are so repetitively dispatched with the same axe-fu twirling; the abandonment of classical vamp mythos will have you pining for some variety in the madness.
The concept at the heart of this film is an afterthought-NEXT! The review should logically stop here, but there’s a lemon to squeeze. A mediocre and unimpressive citrus indeed, its peel is like cardboard and the flesh is shrivelled and the ugly little thing looks like it’s been sitting at the bottom of the basket for far too damn long. Unfortunately somebody had the gumption to serve it up to non-existing customers. This is at the heart of the problem, an idea with no levity being strung out and out and out; it’s thin of course and there’s little else to add to this analysis beyond babble. It’s a good time to stop; perhaps Seth Grahame-Smith will consider doing likewise.