When: Thursday, 2 August - Sunday, 2 September
Where: Various Cinemas, Auckland
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is the consequence of what screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith calls "one of those Reese's Peanut Butter Cup moments". It was during his 2009 book tour for the novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies that he observed two very distinct themes dominating almost every major storefront: biographies marking the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth, and copies of Twilight marking the death of good writing. Eventually the two ideas merged in his head and the result was a wildly imaginative retelling of the Abraham Lincoln story.
Set in the early 19th century, it begins with the death of Lincoln's mother, though not of "milk sickness" as history remembers it, but instead at the hand of a local (and suspiciously dead) slave trader, Jack Barts (Marton Csokas). The course for vengeance is thus set, and once the adult Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) learns the terrifying true nature of his mother's killer, he vows to wipe all vampires off the face of the earth. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, then, is perhaps the most descriptive movie title since 2011's Jack and Jill: Money Waster. Thankfully, though, it's also infinitely better.
Produced by Tim Burton (Dark Shadows) and directed by Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted, Night Watch), it's a visually rich production that makes excellent use of both slow motion and 3D shots. The latter, as explained by lead actor Benjamin Walker during a recent trip to Sydney, was used by Bekmambetov as a "tool rather than a gimmick … because with vampires you're dealing with proximity, and you really want to be able to feel that presence and that danger." And feel it you most certainly do, for these toothy-villains wail and gnash at the audience with substantially less tenderness and sparkle than some of their cinematic contemporaries.
Most importantly though, is that this is an entirely silly film treated with extraordinary seriousness by everyone involved. As a consequence it not only avoids the horrible fate of the similarly absurdly named Aliens and Cowboys, but also provides a terrifically creative example of Civil War historical revisionism — pitting Lincoln's Union forces against the Southern Confederates as part of mankind's last stand against an army of the undead. It’s great fun, relentlessly fast-paced, and at only 105 minutes, manages to pack in more than your money’s worth of action and gore.
By Kyle Bell