Review - Fourscore and ... die, vampire, DIE!

22nd June 2012 at 01:00

Abraham Lincoln had a fairly impressive life, all things considered. Born into poverty, he progressed to the White House, won the American civil war and abolished slavery in the South. The only thing he did not do, frankly, is fight vampires along the way.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter rectifies this. Released this week, the film revisits the life of the 16th president of the United States, but with the addition of vampires. Yup. Abraham Lincoln fights vampires. As a conceit, it is pretty hard to fault.

So we see Mrs Lincoln killed by a vampire when Abe is still a young boy. Bent on revenge, he is recruited by Henry Sturgess, who educates him in the ways of the undead. The vampires, it turns out, were responsible for slaughtering the native Americans. And they have a vested interest in perpetuating slavery in the South (slavery equals an all-you-can-eat buffet).

"Power, real power, Lincoln, comes not from hate, but from truth," Sturgess says. Then he trains Abe to chop down a tree with a single strike, swing an axe around his head and fight in the dark. It's just like Karate Kid, but with vampires.

Lincoln settles in Springfield, Illinois, where he fights vampires and courts Mary Todd. Eventually, he realises that the two occupations are incompatible, and gives up vampire-hunting for politics.

Only, of course, things are not so simple. The South, remember, is full of plantation-owning, slave-guzzling vampires. So, by abolishing slavery, President Lincoln is taking on all of vampirekind.

Given the subject matter (Abraham Lincoln! Killing vampires!), the screenplay is astonishingly pedestrian. Take, for example, this conversation between Lincoln and Mary Todd at a dance. Todd: It's called a dance. If you were meant to sit alone, they would have called it something else. Lincoln: Yes, I'm sure they would have.

Since Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the profession of vampire-killing has been associated with wit and one-liners. I am still waiting for the punchline here.

But, hey. Abraham Lincoln kills vampires. And there are some beautiful set pieces. Lincoln and his mother's murderer, for example, confront one another in the middle of a stampede of wild horses. And the climactic fight scene involves speeding trains and burning bridges. And vampires. Did I mention the vampires?

It is not the best film you will ever see. It is a long way from being the best written. But there are plenty of dead undead, and there is an axe-wielding president ensuring they end up that way. I am already contemplating the sequel. Is it just me, or does anyone else think Jimmy Carter's presidency might be improved with the addition of a werewolf or two?

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is in cinemas from 20 June.

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