So, Abraham Lincoln – the 16th president of the United States – didn't set out to abolish slavery for altruistic reasons, because he believed that all men are created equal and should be free. No, he wanted to abolish slavery to rid the United States of vampires.
That's the premise of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, the latest film to be helmed by Timur Bekmambetov – the creative mind behind Wanted, Day Watch and Night Watch. Those who've seen his previous works will realise that we're on familiar ground here – lots of clever slow-mo action and plenty of CGI blood and gore. The premise of the film, based on the best-selling novel of the same name, is that Lincoln led a secret life as a slayer of the vampire.
We first meet Abe as a boy, whose mother is killed by a vampire. As a young adult, he's recruited by a vampire hunter, Henry Sturgess (Cooper), and trained to battle the undead. He moves to Springfield, Illinois, where he works in a store while training to be a lawyer, killing vampires by night. He's sent assignments by Sturgess, but all he really wants to do is kill Jack Barts (Csokas) – the vampire that murdered his mother. He meets and falls for Mary Todd (Winstead), but the man known for his honesty must keep his secret double life from her. Eventually, as he works his way toward the White House, Lincoln also comes to the attention of Adam (Sewell), the king of all vampires, who sets out to either turn or kill his nemesis.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is an entertaining enough romp, but it suffers one major problem: it lacks a sense of humour. I mean, the title itself is completely silly; you see that, and you expect something arch and knowing and witty, along the lines of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But as a much-loved colleague of mine is fond of saying, this is all rather po-faced; it takes itself far too seriously. That's not to say the film isn't fun. The action is exciting, and the plot moves with a decent pace. The performances, too, are all first-rate, particularly Cooper as the mentor Sturgess. And there are one or two funny lines (yes, the theatre does get a mention).
One has to wonder just who this film is aimed at. Is Abraham Lincoln that well known outside the US? We know he was a president, and he freed the slaves, and he had a kick-arse beard, but is he a name that will get bums on cinema seats? Will the "Vampire Hunter" part of the title pull the audiences in? They'll certainly be entertained, if it's vamp-killing action they're after, but that is about all that's on offer here.