Yes, that’s right: The history books had it all wrong. Or at least they left a lot out. You know, the part about Abraham Lincoln cleaving vampires with his ax and keeping the United States safe from the undead.
See? You think it sounds crazy, right? How thoroughly you’ve been brainwashed! Well, settle in for American History Revised, as offered in “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” a deranged but straight-faced action epic with Honest Abe as hero.
The movie is based on a gimmick best-seller by Seth Grahame-Smith, who also did the screenplay. It’s framed as a memoir written by President Lincoln, as he recalls his youth as a vampire slayer.
Recruited for the task by a mystery man (Dominic Cooper), fueled by fury over his mother’s death (turns out Ma Lincoln actually died at the bite of a vampire; another thing history got wrong), the Rail Splitter (Benjamin Walker) lines his ax with molten silver and takes on the task of ridding the country of the bloodsuckers.
All of this is rendered in a hyperbolic, super-slick style and shot in occasionally startling 3D. Some films have 3D as an extra cherry on top; director Timur Bekmambetov (“Wanted”) really uses the process, and not just for firing a bullet at the screen (although there’s that), but also for giving us a sense of how large a certain room is, and how close a predator might be.
There are some clever ideas running around here, albeit in really terrible taste. These include Grahame-Smith’s notion of how slavery and the Underground Railroad figured into the vampire plot for world domination and how the Confederate Army might have turned the tide of the Civil War.
Walker makes for a stolid hero, with Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Mary Todd Lincoln and Rufus Sewell perfectly cast as the leader of the vampire crew. But this is not exactly an actors’ movie.
If the movie weren’t so intent on mounting a few pumped-up action sequences (a computer-generated stampede of horses is particularly irrelevant), Bekmambetov might stand a chance of creating a moody little slice of supernatural history.
As it is, he creates some undeniable moments. But even with the effective stuff, it’s hard to stifle the thought, “Am I actually watching what I think I’m watching?” And the answer is yes: You are actually watching a movie called “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.”
“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” ½
Seems Honest Abe was actually an ax-wielding killer of the undead, as this frequently wild action picture makes clear. Despite the absurd subject, the movie’s got some moments, even if ultimately the premise conjures up giggling fits rather than horror.
Rated: R for violence, language.
Showing: Alderwood, Cinebarre, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Oak Tree, Pacific Place, Woodinville, Cascade.