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Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Forget that old stuff about Pickett’s Charge. It seems the decisive event during the Civil War’s three-day Battle of Gettysburg was the Attack of the Bloodsuckers. Generals Lee, Pickett, and Meade aren’t even mentioned in Timur Bekmambetov’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Honest Abe (Benjamin Walker) is the real hero of this critical battle, with the assistance of First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and the utilization of the White House silverware. (Don’t ask.)

Bekmambetov’s history-trashing movie was scripted by Seth Grahame-Smith, who adapted his own novel of the same name. (This is the same fellow who gave the literary world Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and scripted Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows.) He recently told the New York Daily News that he wanted to give folks some fun that was grounded in American history. If only. Abraham Lincoln is so not historically grounded. This may be of little or no consequence: It’s only a movie, after all. Although, given the miserable state of social studies education in this country, there may be viewers, young and not so much, who stand in danger of taking the moviemakers’ many cavalierly deployed inaccuracies as fact. (There is some serious movie precedent for ignoring this history. D. W. Griffith and John Ford each invented his own Lincoln.) And forget about the fun part. What particularly marks this sorry We Don’t Need No Education effort is its clumsy chutzpah. If it was meant as a camp exercise, it’s a singularly inadvisable one.

The flat premise is that from an early age, Lincoln hunted down vampires to avenge his mother’s death at their hands. He’s recruited for this crusade by Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), a reluctant good-guy vampire who runs Abe like a secret-agent assassin in Springville, Illinois.

The results are less amusing than simply silly. The picture is really an awkward aggregation of oddments from martial arts and horror movies imposed on the faux-historical narrative. Bekmambetov doesn’t show any discernible flair for action sequences, and the 3-D is mostly incorporated with no great skill. Grahame-Smith’s dialogue is so often pompously turgid that it’s difficult to decisively say whether it’s the product of wise-guy self-amusement or ineptitude.

Lurking here and there in this ham-handed mess there seems to be an odd hint of a metaphor linking American slavery and vampirism. Don’t dwell on it. This hokey, kitschy movie doesn’t.

Watch the trailer for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

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