Unfortunately for our 16th president, it seems Edward Everett rose from the dead to pen the meandering script of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Yet judged by its base-heavy, slow-motion, blood-splattered trailer, Tim Burton’s newest movie looked just as epic as its title.
Stretch that minute and a half into an hour and a half, however, and the movie commits an error that Lincoln never would have. The president gave his Gettysburg Address in just two minutes, and director Timur Bekmambetov could take a lesson from him in brevity.
For what it delivers, Vampire Hunter is simply too long. Bekmambetov takes105 minutes to drag through a story that slashes historical accuracy as often as it does dead corpses—although neither of those two actions are unwelcome. If you expected Bekmambetov to stick to the historical record, I would refer you back to the movie’s title. And if you were looking for something other than silver-tipped shotgun/axe hybrids and fountains of scarlet blood, I would suggest someone other than Burton. But for the most part, that’s not what Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter presents.
Instead of an action-packed awesomefest of vampire slaying, the film takes us on Lincoln’s untold monomyth and bizarre coming-of-age story. Played by Benjamin Walker of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, a strapping young Abe witnesses the horrors of American vampires from his first years growing up in the log cabin.
Leaning over his cot one night, Lincoln spots one of the monsters hovering by his mother. He wakes in the morning to find her sweating, veins popping with milky diseased tendrils, and eyes rolling back into her head. As an amateur Lincoln learns when he goes out to hunt his mother’s killer with a small hand gun, these vampires are horrifying. Rows of shark-like teeth spurt out of their mouths, and slow motion shots reminiscent of Bekmambetov’s Wanted freeze their contorted faces mid-attack. Although Vampire Hunter doesn’t pack in enough undead action, when it does, it executes it epically.
Weaving together short bursts of our axe-wielding, vampire slaying president, unfortunately, is a story arc that some teenage fanfiction writer might have pieced together. Ever wondered how awkward it would be to witness the president walk in on two vamps having sex in a bathtub? Done. While irreverence is at the heart of this movie, it often takes the absurd too far in the wrong direction, and then not far enough in the right one. Twenty-something Lincoln bumbles through courting Mary Todd for a good part of the movie, and as soon as he decides to settle down, he puts his axe away.
Only when the Union starts to crumble does the movie pick up again, though never with the force of those first few slayings. The south is secretly a vampire empire where slaves are literally the lifeblood of its rulers, who look to turn the U.S. into a nation of the undead, by the undead, for the undead. A re-envisioned Gettysburg provides the climax, but the action only sometimes lives up to the movie’s hype.
Despite some wonderful moments—a dapper southern vampire in full 1800s garb yells “Abraham F****ing Lincoln!” as the president slays his friends—the movie falls flat. But Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is headed to D.C., so you can go elsewhere for your revisionist history this summer.