Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, a biting review of a movie that leaves no mark

Faced at last with the opportunity to see a movie about a U.S. president and the undead, one should think of no better time for it than midnight. Yet, why anyone would try to think like this about a film such as Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is, well, confusing. In reality, movies like this, when they rarely come along, should be looked upon with absolutely no preconceptions. In this case, that’s really hard to do.

The title of the film should at least sound familiar. The book that thousands of Barnes & Noble patrons have glossed over for yuks at display racks is now a major motion picture. A young Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) loses his mother to none other than an undead plantation owner. Swearing revenge, Abraham Lincoln diligently trains himself with the help of an established vampire hunter in order to rid the Union of the vampire menace.

And so the story begins. It’s a lot to take in at first. For filmgoers who can manage to suspend disbelief once the movie gets going, Abraham Lincoln comfortably speeds along like many the gritty action-thriller. The direction is quick and fluid, and the story rarely delays in between gore. It’s very much like Wanted, director Timur Bekmambetov’s previous film (the one with the curving bullets). Both films reward audiences willing to accept that their respective premises are, for the most part, silly.

Many aspects of the movie should have worked towards this identity. All of the hip vampire mythos is there in force with a few personal touches. The undead are either supermodels or strutting about in the daylight in dusters and cool sunglasses, eating vagrants in alleys by night.

Meanwhile, Walker, not long off his Broadway debut as an emo-rocking president in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, gives the young president-to-be a bit of an awkwardness, as if he’s just as lost in the concept as his audience. A relatively young cast, featuring Dominic Cooper, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Anthony Mackie, backing him up and a script by the book’s author Seth Grahame-Smith both promise to boost the edgy, fun and a little bit tacky movie to greatness.

But it misses on the way there. By either poor execution or bad luck, Abraham Lincoln never seems to head in the direction that it should. Grahame-Smith’s writing buckles at key moments, preventing Walker from locking in with his co-stars, giving them little to work with. Meanwhile, the story pushes along, dragging characters via lame plot devices and improbable set pieces.

It would all be in good fun, of course, if at any point Abe seemed open to it. In the end, Abraham Lincoln is too serious for its unarguably goofy premise. The action is exciting, the blood is aplenty and the visuals are worth the 3D ticket. But it stops there. It’s as if the entire thing is a joke that Lincoln isn’t getting. To quote the chubby man in the movie theater, “It’s not a kid’s movie at all. But it’s too dumb for adults.” Divided against itself, the film cannot stand.