Lincoln, Vampire Hunter misses the mark
BY FIRAS AL-ATRAQCHI
It shouldn’t have been very hard to promote “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.”
The title, after all, is perhaps the film’s strongest marketing tool. Attuned to the social manifestations gripping America today, the film (and its title) plays to both the need for strong leadership qualities in a president and contemporary pop culture’s baffling obsession with the vampire genre.
What could be more titillating than having America’s iconic President Abraham Lincoln, the visionary emancipator of slaves and the great unifier of a nation nearly torn apart in 1861, taking to arms himself and doing battles with the ghouls of hell?
At least that’s what the previews attempt to sell the audience. Boy was I suckered in.
Instead, the film is a convoluted harried mess of historic hogwash mixed into a rewriting of the undead mythos to produce yet another generic vampire story that can go in the trash bin with all the other B movies that try to cash in on the public’s fantasy of bloodsuckers.
Except this is a money sucker and doesn’t give you eternal life in return.
For one thing, there is no star quality here to keep us even remotely engaged. Unknown actor Benjamin Walker plays the elderly Lincoln, while 20-something Lincoln is played by Joseph Mawle, better known from the “Game of Thrones” series. Why they needed two actors for Lincoln as an adult is anyone’s guess.
The only actor that stands out is Rufus Sewell in the role of the 5,000-year-old godfather vampire who is perhaps best known for his 1998 role in the sci-fi cult classic “Dark City.” But even here, Sewell’s characterization of Adam, the prince of the undead, is undersold, which is a shame because Sewell can play bad guys in exquisite diabolical fashion if given the proper script and story to work with. This could have been another Al Pacino in “The Devil’s Advocate;” but what we get instead is “Dennis the Menace.”
I expected Adam to get the best lines — or at least script that competes with some of Lincoln’s historic addresses — but instead he is reduced to the same trivial trash talk one expects from third-rate vampires in an afternoon cartoon.
The film opens with pre-pubescent Abraham who is already aware of the injustices inflicted on African slaves in the new America. For the first 10 minutes, the film looks interesting as it sways on the edge of revealing the origins of the upbringing that molded a future president who would save a nation.
Instead, screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith, who adapted the story from his own book of the same name, focuses on how vampires came to dominate the slave trade in America’s south.
Grahame-Smith, a TV scriptwriter also known for his mish-mash novel “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” fails to either develop Lincoln into a likable character or write an engaging vampire sub-story and timeline. Lincoln comes across as an arrogant, clumsy, and annoyingly insecure man with little interest in politics except for the fact that being a man of influence could help in the war against the vampires.
The vampires — seeking to rule the US? Meh, what else is new? This line has been written into every film and television series, from “Daybreakers” and “True Blood” to “Underworld,” “Blade” and many more.
And then there is the overused cliché of having a master vampire-hunter educate and train the young Lincoln on the art of decapitating the undead. All I could think of was how Jackie Chan would have fared in that role.
In fact, Grahame-Smith’s Lincoln comes across as such a dork that I couldn’t wait until his assassination scene; except that was skipped in favor of time travel to where else — the Lincoln Memorial, of course — and the search for another vampire hunter. Er, Buffy?
Don’t watch this terrible film. It is a waste of celluloid, and your time and money. At the end, this is a film hunting for an audience.
“Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter” is currently showing in theaters in Cairo and Alexandria. –The Egypt Monocle