Perhaps the only thing more tiring than movie vampires without bite is rehashing Civil War drama. So on paper, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a jet of air aimed directly in your nostrils so you can't breathe for a second--but the actual execution of the movie forces me to omit the word "fresh." It owes a great deal of thanks to the geniuses who invented wire work, the Wachowski brothers for Bullet Time, Bram Stoker, and Seth Grahame-Smith for coming up with a great initial idea, but it owes audiences an apology for never being better than the sum of its parts.
Just to be clear: I am not surprised that this is a dumb movie that just aims to be fun and ridiculous (hereafter referred to as "fundiculous"). I didn't see the trailer and think, "Oh, this should be enlightening and teach me something about myself and others." I was just hoping for it to be as imaginative as its title. Grahame-Smith hits the same Lincoln plot points you learned in grade school, like Abe growing up in Indiana, hating slavery, and being a stealthy axeman. Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) even goes so far as to comment on how honest he is (Get it? Get it?). Of course artistic license must be taken, like his mother being killed by a vampire. But how do I know, I haven't seen the coroner's report.
When Abe learns more about the vamps from Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), he takes to hiding in plain sight as a lowly clerk in a general store, so he can chop the local ghoulies into little tiny pieces without anyone noticing. He slays the bad guys in the manner one would expect, with entrepreneurs (Jimmi Simpson) and African-American friends (Anthony Mackie) by his side. Soon he stops slaying vampires and becomes the most powerful man in America, but the vampires still want to inaugurate him as the Dead-ident of the United States.
Director Timur Bekmambetov's films, such as Wanted and Night Watch, are always good for action and intense CG that seems too ambitious and cutting-edge to be pulled off properly. And although visually noteworthy, I always have trouble with their stories. They have plenty of super cool spinning bullet shots but are about assassins that like to weave fabric. They just miss the mark. Lincoln is by far the most coherent, but it relies solely on the gimmick that it's funny to have an ex-President using a silver-coated axe to fight mythical creatures. There's nothing else there. Combined with chase scenes on top of horses (not riding them, mind you, but on top of them) and tons of slowed-down flips and spins, it just feels like a more-interesting-than-usual effects reel for a digital effects company. However, to note: slow-mo stove pipe hat shots are always good for a laugh, I must admit.
I think the most fun thing to come out of this film is the game my Movies.com co-critic Dave White and our friend Casual Gary were inspired to play afterwards. In order to figure out what the sequel to this film will be, take any figure from history (bonus points for using obscure US presidents), put a colon after the name, and add a strange hobby or job. The best of the lot includes Benjamin Franklin: Amusement Park Exorcist, Thomas Jefferson: Junior Lifeguard, James A. Garfield: Kind of a Sassmouth, and Jimmy Carter: Skateboard Trickster. You're welcome.