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Horror history lesson has bite

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TO LINCOLN1

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter

DIRECTOR: Timur Bekmambetov

CAST: Benjamin Walker, Marton Csokas, Dominic Cooper and Anthony Mackie

CLASSIFICATION:

RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes

RATING: ****

Abraham Lincoln, friggin’ awesome. As far as good ol’ Abe goes, Americans love him almost as much as they love McDonalds. Oh? So they’re just morbidly obese because they avoid Mickey Ds? Thought so.

Moving along, this politico-fantasy film starts off with a Bible scripture and then the words: “History prefers legends to men.”

How spot on is it then for the central character of this film to be the legendary Abraham Lincoln.

It’s been a long time since anything with the word “vampire” in it was even a little bit exciting. This film exceeded expectations. From the blue-black of night to the hazy orange of the daylight, the cinematography was a great vehicle to use for going back in time.

It’s the 1800s and everyone wears top hats and attempts to jail freed slaves. When his mother is drained of her blood by an unfamiliar source, a young Abraham (Walker) promises his father he will not go looking for revenge, but then promptly breaks that promise after his father dies.

On the condition that he will only seek out and kill the destructive vampires in America and not go for the one who took his mother’s life, an eccentric Henry Sturgass (Cooper) helps Abraham become a vampire hunter.

But there seems to be more to Henry than meets the eye. It’s pretty obvious that eventually Abraham and the living dead he wants to kill forever will meet and have a show-down. But that’s not the most interesting scene. The action-packed fight sequences are explosive.

That’s not surprising since the same guy who gave us the awesome Wanted as well as Night Watch and Day Watch directs this film.

Through the use of a phantom camera, the vampires leap gracefully into the air, the hem of their jackets flapping as their milky grey pupils make you glad you have on your 3D glasses.

The fights are deliciously slowed down, magnified and the blood splatter (in 3D) is gore-filled and glorious. These are odd words to use with regards to violence, but apt ones nonetheless.

One of the boring aspects of the film is the in-your-face patriotism. There’s the Star Spangled Banner at every turn and all this talk about what it means to be American and all that blah blah fishpaste.

A fellow reviewer remarked that the time spent on the history lesson of how vampires came to inhabit and take over the American south – and it’s not because they like crunk music – was a waste.

But I think the lesson was a valuable one. Especially because as a re-imagining of how Abraham tackles slavery, it makes sense to have Harriet Tubman and her underground railroad as indelible parts of the story.

Plus a porky Anthony Mackie is a welcome addition as a slave with smarts and a history with Abe.

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter is a bit like The Hunger Games in how classism is explored and how to defeat the enemy, one must be really familiar with the enemy. That’s not how the saying goes? Oh well.

The make-up is something to write home about. By the last half of the film, Walker has an uncanny resemblance to the real Lincoln – with beard and all. The devil is in the details and unlike when Leo DiCaprio tried to portray J Edgar Hoover, there is no trace of the actor in this Lincoln.

If you liked… Hunger Games… then you might like this.


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