‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ Review

Published 2 years ago by , Updated November 26th, 2014 at 7:19 pm,

Anthony Mackie Benjamin Walker Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Review

The film doesn’t quite deliver a fully-formed combination of history and supernatural horror, but for anyone who can accept the experience on its own terms, there are plenty of entertaining moments.

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).

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.

Benjamin Walker Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Review

Benjamin Walker as Honest (Vampire Hunter) Abe

As mentioned, the basic plot of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter can be pretty convoluted – especially in its attempts to marry historical events and real-life personalities with supernatural elements. At times, history and fiction are stitched together in a way that makes both sides of the mashup more interesting, such as Lincoln’s time spent running a general store and a flatboat trip to New Orleans; unfortunately, other moments are too on-the-nose – relying on thin (and overly convenient) supernatural explanations for real events.

Similarly, characters are exceptionally one-dimensional – which is, by far, the biggest missed opportunity in the entire film (considering the story utilizes a number of historical figures within a supernatural conspiracy plot). While audiences may be surprised to find that one of history’s most iconic leaders (who, in this case, also happens to fight vampires at night) isn’t all that interesting, it’s hardly the fault of actor Benjamin Walker – who manages to keep what could have otherwise been a goofy portrayal of the 16th President (both old and young) grounded and believable during even the most outrageous monster slaying escapades. Both Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Mary Todd and Anthony Mackie’s William Johnson are equally competent but underutilized – mostly reacting to increasingly crazy revelations without room to actually flesh out their characters as anything more than Lincoln’s loved ones. However, the biggest character misfire is the flat-out boring implementation of the primary vampires – the aforementioned Adam, and his lady Vadoma (Erin Wasson), who are nothing more than soulless faces in a convoluted attempt by Grahame-Smith to marry a vampire rebellion with anti-abolitionist confederates.

In spite of its shortcomings, the core premise rarely fails to entertain (even if there are a number of eye roll-worthy moments), since the vampire hunting elements successfully up-the-ante with each encounter. Early on, Lincoln forgoes his mentor’s preferred means of dispatching vampires, i.e. silver bullets – in favor of some slick axe work. While some audience members may find the axe versus vampire flesh sequences to be a little too flashy (and hard to follow), Bekmambetov utilizes some effective slow motion camerawork to showcase Lincoln’s stylish and acrobatic slaying techniques. In a genre that is overwrought with gun battles and throwing knives, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter thankfully presents a number of entertaining close quarters combat sequences that, despite our obvious real-world knowledge of Lincoln, make it easy to believe that the President could go toe-to-toe with similarly gifted monster slayers like Blade and Van Helsing.

Rufus Sewell Benjamin Walker Erin Wasson Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Review

Rufus Sewell, Benjamin Walker, and Erin Wasson in ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’

Despite some high-octane action moments in the film’s trailer, Vampire Hunter is actually pretty intimate – as most of the epic moments are still pretty confined (narratively speaking). Few of the set pieces are given much time to build tension and many of the encounters offer little more than flashy hack and slash choreography. This isn’t to say that Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter can’t deliver on excitement – since a number of the vampire hand-to-Honest Axe combats benefit from Bekmambetov’s trademark fast and furious action beats.

Additionally, while many theaters will be pushing Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter in 3D, the film would be just as enjoyable without the premium upgrade. There are a few moments where the slow-motion axe combat looks especially slick (as vampire blood spews into the air) and several larger shots (such as a trip on the Mississippi river as well as Civil War battlefields) are definitely enhanced by the added dimension; but only those few moments are must see in 3D. As a result, the 3D up charge isn’t a waste, but it’s hardly required viewing.

Moviegoers expecting a gritty “Lincoln kills vampires” character drama will likely be disappointed by Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter; although, as a tongue-in-cheek action mashup, Grahame-Smith and Bekmambetov have, for the most part, delivered an entertaining (albeit campy) historical retelling. The film doesn’t quite deliver a fully-formed combination of history and supernatural horror (if that’s even possible), but for anyone who can accept the experience on its own terms, there are plenty of entertaining moments of vampire hunting to keep your appetite for blood a fun time at the theater sated.

If you’ve seen the movie and want to discuss details about the film without worrying about spoiling it for those who haven’t seen it, please head over to our Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Spoilers Discussion.

For an in-depth discussion of the film by the Screen Rant team check out our Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter episode of the SR Underground podcast.

If you’re still on the fence about Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, check out the trailer below:

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Let us know what you thought of the film in the comment section below.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future reviews, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is Rated R for violence throughout and brief sexuality. Now playing in theaters.

Our Rating:

2.5 out of 5
(Fairly Good)

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TAGS: abraham lincoln vampire hunter

92 Comments

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  1. The movie is an hour and 45 minutes and i fell asleep for like 55 minutes…

    So obviously i’m going to see it again because i did, for the most part, tolerate if not enjoy what i saw.

    I read somewhere that Tom Hardy was approached for the role?? My question is, how? How do you look at Tom Hardy and see Abe Lincoln in him? Benjamin Walker looks almost exactly like him plus being tall and lanky. It’s insane.

    Yeah…

    • You can’t be serious. How could you have possibly fallen asleep? It was interesting and exciting from beginning to end.

      • I work the overnight shift and went to see the movie early in the morning after work (it’s a weekly routine) but it was also the second movie i’d seen that day and to be honest..i was really tired. Like i said i’ll see it again for sure haha.

      • Yes, it was… for a ten-year-old. Just got home from a screening. The Abe gimmick didn’t hold me either. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I guess i’m just getting tired of the vampire genre.

        • I’ve studied Lincoln, his life and history, his character. If you do so as well, you’ll find threads in the movie that’ll hold on to you.

          • I’ve studied him as well, if you count being obsessed with him and reading as much as I could when I was young, but besides the clever, somewhat intriguing genre mash-up, there really wasn’t much to the story. I thought this would be smarter, more in depth of take on the idea like something the brilliant “alternative history” writer Harry Turtledove. If his stuff is for thoughtful adults, this movie is for kids. Both takes have their place, I suppose.

    • the rumor was obviously false.

      • Oh really???? Just wondering, how can you tell such a thing??

        Also, perhaps you might consider changing your Username to something like “CoolGuy420″ or “CorrectMan666″??

        Thanks in advance

  2. I totally disagree with you Ben, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was a great movie. It was a fun movie, the action was great, we got real vampires not that Twilight crap. Saw it in 2D which was fine, I know a few of the scenes would have been great in 3D tho. Yes some of the characters werent fully formed, but its not a glaring problem. I give it an 8 out of 10, and this is coming from a guy who thought the film was going to be retarded. Go see it.

  3. I just saw the movie 10 minutes ago, and it was freaking awesome! The effects were cool, the vampires were scary as hell, and I can’t wait to see it again :)

  4. The book was great and the movie was ridiculously bad unless you were expecting a campy cult classic sort of film. They butchered the book for the sake of excitement and special effects (both of which were less than appealing). Or do I need to remind everyone of the horse stampede scene?

    • the film sucked because the book sucked. and yes i’ve read that miserable excuse for literature.

      • Those of us who never even heard of the book version could care less. The movie did not “suck” you miserable excuse for a reviewer.

    • What kind of cynic are you to call this movie ‘ridiculously bad”? It is absolutely not bad, and not ridiculous.

      • Gee, Mike, taking another person’s opinion about a monster movie a little personally? Or are you ten? If you are, then your response is entirely acceptable because your little brain wouldn’t have developed into a fully functional organ yet. And, in case you haven’t read most of the reviews, most professional (those are folks who make their livings doing this) pretty much thought the film sucked, too. Try to look beyond all the tricky, amusement park camera work, and see that there really isn’t much to this little piece of fluff. Then again, if you’re only ten…

        • Talk about taking things personally. To paraphrase Churchill’s famous reponse to the pompous Lady Astor,”I may be ten, but your review is that of a fossil. Tomorrow, my thinking will still have the freshness of a child, and you will still be a crusty, inflexible, narrow, fossil”.
          Check you at the next movie.

          • You can only come up with someone else’s arcane, vaguely relevant response? In other words: you got nothing original to say Angry Mike? I’ll just leave you to read the vast majority of the comments here (and the dismal box office receipts) to ponder the entertainment value of this cartoon of a movie. As you are of such limited taste, why not stretch yourself a bit and watch movies that aren’t about vampires, monsters, and super heroes — because by your oddly angry and defensive responses throughout this thread, it’s clear this sort of grade-school fare is all you probably ever watch.

            • LADIES, LADIES! YOU’RE BOTH BEAUTIFUL!

            • Really John? Your only attack on Mike was calling him a ten year old and repeating yourself, while trying to use “big words” to make yourself sound smarter. Just because a critic who is paid to review a movie says it’s bad doesn’t mean you need to believe every word they say. Critics can be bribed to make a movie sound better than it actually is, or vice versa. If you don’t like the movie, fine, but there are others who do, and they don’t care about your opinion.

  5. this film = POS

    • and its too bad really. the dude REALLY looks like honest abe, especially with the beard.

  6. The reviewers must have seen another movie or been too drunk to know what they were looking at. I loved Vampire Hunter. It is well paced. It is entertaining, and never for a moment boring, from beginning to end. Each of the characters fulfills an important role. Most importantly, it is true to the high character of Abraham Lincoln. It builds on his historical courage, his love of family, love for his country, and even his recklessness. Never mind the elitist, snobbish criticism of these idiots. Even the historical liberties are of a “so-what?” nature. This is not history, after all. This is well done, creative, entertainment. See Vampire Hunter. You’ll be glad you did.

    • Man, you’re an angry little person. Do yourself a favor; go pick up any “alternative history” novel written by the great Harry Turtledove, read it, then come back and tell us all of this again. This movie doesn’t “build on” anything about Lincoln, not if you know anything about the man beyond the Wiki entries. The only thing “creative” about this film was the camera work (though that has all been done many times before, too, actually) and the idea of making Lincoln a vampire hunter. THAT was clever, but for a grown adult familiar with history (the Washington memorial was not completed in Lincoln’s time), the film was just mildly amusing. None of the vampire stuff was original at all. Maybe the creatures’s look (but not the wide-mouthed morphing). And, in the end, if this thing is so “entertaining” why did it fail so horribly on its opening weekend? And, by the way, your last two sentences make you sound like you work for the studio.

  7. I agree that this movie will sit much better with a younger audience that has less of an understanding of Lincoln and the era. Not only because it portrays our 16th president as an axe swinging killer but also it leaves out key events in his life (which frustrated me) along with some of the very enticing plot elements of the book. But esides that it’s a great summer movie to pass the time.

  8. You’d have to be one of the dead to not have enjoyed this film. The mash up worked extremely well and will hopefully get Hollywood looking for film ideas that are fresh for once; instead of relying on the same old recycled formula crap, or even worse the updating of some old TV show. Total mental escape movie. Perfect.

  9. If one has read the book, then I find it hard to believe that he/she would also enjoy this movie. The book was a great read, deep, and while fiction, did an amazing job of tying in the vampire theme to Lincoln’s real life without being corny or overly done. Most of the dates of historical events in the book were spot on including births, deaths, dates of Civil War battles, etc. The movie on the other hand was completely different from the start. Nothing but mindless action, CGI blood everywhere, inaccurate dates and stupid over the top special effects. (The horse chase and final train scene were completely stupid). The main vampire characters were pointless and added nothing to the movie and were not in the book at all. There was also the stupid theme of silver (not in book), and the fact that vampires “can’t kill their own” — Whiskey Tango Foxtrot??

    I know they wouldn’t be able to capture to entire book in sub two hour film, but they could have at least stuck to the story somewhat. There was plenty in the book that could have been used to make this movie good, but they pretty much just ignored ALL of it. It only mentioned one of Lincoln’s four sons and left out a very strong ally Lincoln had in the book. The only real similarity between the book and the movie was the name itself. What a joke.

    Of course teenagers will love the movie for its flashy special effects, mind numbing action, and blood flying every time you turn around. That’s all Hollywood seems to care about these days; forget about an actual storyline that is actually written well. The irony is the writer of the book also wrote the screenplay and how he could turn something so good into something so bad is beyond comprehension.

    In the past four or five years, I’ve only seen two movies in a regular theater because I was sick of wasting my money on Hollywood action crap. I usually wait until movies get to my local $2 theater so if the movie sucked at least I would waste $11 on a ticket. I wish I had done the same with this movie. The book was good and I should have quit while I was ahead, but I was so excited about this movie I broke my own rule of waiting until the movie gets to the $2 theater and wasted my money again. Oh well lesson learned, and this is not a mistake I will make again.

    • I so agree with you! This movie was horrible I was so disappointed. I about walked out a dozen times. The book was wonderfully written and often made you believe it could be true. The movie was completely unbelievable. Just wish they would have stuck to the book could have been an amazing movie. If you have read the book I strongly recommend not watching the movie

  10. It was a fun movie, more like Gone With The Wind Meets Dracula. Perhaps a bit disrespectful to the dead of the Civil War with vampires helping out the South.

  11. I never read the book, but i really enjoyed the movie

  12. Ok…ive just finished watching the movie on dvd (wasnt able to get to the movies in time to watch) but I have a question… In the trailer I saw on tv (cant seem to find it anywhere now – the one i watched) it showed you in a snippet of the trailer Adam alive and well being the one who snook into the theatre and was the one who assassinated Lincoln. now i didnt see any of that in the end of teh movie.. all it showed was it fading to now times and Henry talking once again to a guy at the bar…..Ive even searched through deleted scenes and no luck.. did i just imagine it ?

  13. This movie absolutely and completely stunk. I wanted to keep smacking my self in the head for wanting to watch this movie in the first place. waste of time

  14. Why do u guys hate the movie so much…it is awesome beyond compare …I would have loved to read the book though
    You know what, a book is always better than the movie of the book…every single time…soyou can’t blame the directors. The book goes more in depth but a 2 hour movie can not get all the details…its impossible…
    Its an awesome movie though