By John wirt
October 18, 2012
Some wonderful movies have been made in Louisiana, especially among the smaller, independent productions, but the list of bad high-profile films produced here keeps growing. Following the recent Battleship, last year’s Battle Los Angeles, 2009’s Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant and 2006’s All the King’s Men, the New Orleans and Covington-shot Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter earns a high place on this list of shame. Earning a below-expectations $16.5 million in its opening weekend, the $69 million production is a box office disappointment, too.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter uncovers a dark secret in U.S. history. Before he entered politics, the 16th president of the United States devoted himself to vampire extermination. Turns out vampires were everywhere in the decades before the Civil War. They masqueraded as bankers, pharmacists, ministers, infesting unsuspecting human communities.
In the especially ridiculous revisionist history of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, a 10-year-old Lincoln watches his mother die an early death. She’s the victim of a vampire.
Leaping years forward, young Mr. Lincoln wants revenge. But he’s ignorantly unprepared to dispatch his mother’s killer, an immensely swift, strong, bullet-resistent vampire who can render himself invisible.
It’s no contest when Lincoln confronts Jack Barts. Luckily, the foolish future president is rescued by a good Samaritan — of sorts.
Beyond having his life saved, Lincoln sees an opportunity. “Teach me to fight as you do,” Lincoln asks his benefactor, Dominic Cooper.
Cooper becomes Lincoln’s instructor in the art of vampire slaying. He also insists that his new disciple assume a monastic existence. No attachments, no friends, no spouse, no family allowed. A little bathtub scene featuring Cooper and a friendly female companion suggests he doesn’t follow his own rules.
Based on the novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a haven of lame, stilted dialogue. Despite the suspension of disbelief horror-fantasy audiences regularly volunteer for the purpose of being entertained, the story’s situations and plot never convince. Nothing in this movie is worth watching.
As with many film portrayals of historical figures that have come before, especially Lincoln, the bland Benjamin Walker does a waxen impression of Lincoln. The script does its best, too, to render him a paper-thin character. Shallow re-creations of his Gettysburg battlefield address and signing of the Emancipation Proclamation don’t grant this version of Lincoln wisdom or gravity or courage that feels genuine.
Even moviegoers willing to accept Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter as escapist entertainment won’t find much to savor. Grahame-Smith’s screenplay from his novel, lacking cleverness and imagination, simply fuses Lincoln’s and the Civil War’s historical outlines with horror- and action-movie clichés.
Borrowing from the historical record, the story makes former rail-splitter Lincoln’s weapon of choice an axe. So he’s not just fighting vampires, he’s doing so martial artsstyle in stylized slow-motion. These already gratuitous Lincoln versus vampires fight sequences are stretched to torturous lengths. Add a train and massive explosions to the mix and you’ve got a film worthy of another movie in competition for the title of worst movie of all time, the Will Smith-starring Wild Wild West.
Being a period piece shot in colorful Louisiana doesn’t even help Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. With its muted, affected color palette and mediocre set design, the film looks more like a mid-priced TV movie than a major motion picture.