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Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (3D)


Stars: Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell, Marton Csokas

Director: Timur Bekmambetov

“History prefers legends to men” writes Lincoln in the secret journal that is the source of this ingenious and atmospheric shocker, and adds “However history remembers me before I was a President, it shall only remember a fraction of the truth”.

That ‘truth’, as reported by screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith (from his novel) is wittily told – with appropriate lashings of blood and butchery – by Russian director Timur Bekmambetov (Night Watch, Day Watch) who brings the inventive blend of history, fantasy and action to vivid life, complemented by the contributions of cinematographer Caleb Deschanel (the 3D is good but restrained, apart from a whip lashing out of the screen into the faces of cinemagoers) and production designer Francois Audouy and, no doubt, the influence of producer Tim Burton.

Result? An unexpected pleasure.

The meld of fact and fantasy is enjoyably effective. As a young boy, Lincoln was present at his mother’s death as the result of a vampire attack. Years later he discovers Csokas is the bloodsucker who killed her but fails to dispose of him and is coached by Cooper to control his rage so that he can to “become stronger and fight for the greater good of mankind”. Which is exactly what he does after first becoming a lawyer, then a politician and finally the 18th President of the United States. A super sword-wielding, silver bullet-firing superhero is born to take on the legions of vampires from the South who go up against the Union troops in the American Civil War.

Barack Obama must be really relieved to learn that Lincoln turns down an offer to join the legions of the undead. On the evidence here, had Lincoln had accepted, become immortal and so been around to run for office against him, Obama wouldn’t have had a hope of hell of winning.

The action is well staged, notably an edge-of-the seat fight sequence on a runaway train racing along a massive burning bridge while Our Hero battles vampires on top of the carriages, and some impressively handled battle sequences in which the Confederate troops turn out to be vicious vampires.

Walker is gaunt and gangly enough to pass for Lincoln, Winstead is sweet as his wife while British actors, as is so often the case in Hollywood movies, enjoy themselves and effectively communicate that enjoyment to the audience. Which Cooper and Sewell, as the vampire controller of the enslaved Southern Undead, do to excellent effect.

While it's no masterpiece, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter makes a highly entertaining addition to a genre whose previous vampire hunters included simple civilians like Edward Van Sloan, Anthony Hopkins, Hugh Jackman and Peter Cushing.

Alan Frank

USA 2012. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox. Colour by deluxe.
105 minutes. Widescreen 3D. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 21 Jun 2012