Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter wants you to know: There will be blood. And fangs. And ax-wielding historical figures.
The revisionist mash-up turns history on its head with an inspired take on the tired vampire genre by casting the titular president (played by Benjamin Walker) as a kickass Civil War action hero out to save the world from bloodsuckers in cahoots with Confederate forces.
Judging by these early reviews, the reception seems to be mixed, with several critics lauding the film's wacko but fun send-up of the genre and others slamming its hokey historical groundwork.
"Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is without a doubt the best film we are ever likely to see on the subject," raves Roger Ebert. "It's also a more entertaining movie than I remotely expected. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter has nothing useful to observe about Abraham Lincoln, slavery, the Civil War or much of anything else...What it achieves is a surprisingly good job of doing justice to its title, and treating Lincoln with as much gravity as we can expect, under the circumstances."
"Its unexpected secret weapon is how effectively it often plays as straight drama," writes Variety's Justin Chang. "Indeed, the picture works in no small part by applying a sheen of irreverently reverent mythology to one of the most lionized figures in American history...Always on the move and disinclined to overstay its welcome, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is almost good enough to make one wish it had been conceived and executed with a bit more care, or pushed to goofier and/or more visceral extremes."
"At a taut 105 minutes, Abraham Lincoln credibly delivers the thrills and gore it promises, although it's ultimately too lightweight and conventional to merit either cult or classic status," writes The Hollywood Reporter's Justin Lowe. "Marrying this high-concept premise to a coherent narrative proves more challenging, however, as the tales of Lincoln's vampire-slaying exploits make an awkward fit with the historical facts of his life."
Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips lauds the flick for being a "frenzied and occasionally diverting mash-up" before lamenting that director Timur Bekmambetov "shoots every killing spree like an addled gamer, working that slow-down-speed-up kill-shot cliché like a maniac. The actors, most of whom have a wry sense of humor, contend throughout with a director with no sense of humor at all, only a sense of flip excess."
"Unfortunately, director Timur Bekmambetov and writer Seth Grahame-Smith, adapting his own best-selling novel, take this concept entirely too seriously," offers Christy Lemire of the Associated Press. "What ideally might have been playful and knowing is instead uptight and dreary, with a visual scheme that's so fake and cartoony, it depletes the film of any sense of danger."
The Village Voice's Nick Pinkerton was even less forgiving: "Vampire Hunter's bleached palette makes it the ugliest major-studio release this year, though it needs be said that Kazakh director Timur Bekmambetov approaches the material with a degree of Eurotrash insouciance that is probably necessary to approach it at all and crisply handles set pieces involving a horse stampede and a runaway munitions train. Possible resulting 'fun' is only slightly mitigated by contemplation of the wearisome decadence of American popular culture."
"Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter frequently feels like it was hacked down from a longer movie," writes The A.V. Club's Tasha Robinson. "Problem is, even the action sequences don't particularly feel real—particularly in 3-D, where the special effects on the vampires' eyeballs look distractingly transparent and unfinished. The story is trying to ground fantasy in history, but neither one is used coherently enough to connect."
"A revisionist history tale that's unevenly paced and doesn't wholly engage us as it should," offers Randy Myers of the San Jose Mercury News. "Too often this rather disjointed flick doesn't sink its teeth into the real meat of the story, leaping from one fast-edited action sequence to another, rather than developing its allegorical underpinnings."
"Once its genre mash-up premise is established, alas, there isn't much left to make Timur Bekmambetov's latest worth the four score and seven minutes it still has to run," writes Total Film's Neil Smith, who quips that the director "keeps preposterously upping the ante in the apparent misapprehension we might actually be taking this nonsense seriously."