Friday, 22 June 2012



Though the film's Wikipedia page doesn't bear this out, there was a rumour that Snakes On A Plane only came into existence because a group of Hollywood creatives were batting rotten movie concepts back and forth and someone suddenly said "Hey, that's actually got potential!". It's entirely reasonable to assume that this new high-concept blockbuster mashup came into existence in exactly the same kind of way: an irresistible four-word idea that doesn't play fast and loose with known facts so much as literally drive a coach and horses through them at full gallop. While wearing sunglasses. This is historical revisionism gone mental: not in the "Joseph Stalin was a bit misunderstood and was always nice to kittens" kind of way but the "Joseph Stalin fought dinosaurs and defeated an invasion of Martian robots with his eyes shut" kind of way.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter actually derives from a 2010 novel by Seth Grahame-Smith and the plot is, brilliantly, all in the title. The future 16th President of the United States first encountered vampires as a child when his mother was murdered by one of them; the vengeful Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) is tutored in the ways of killing vampires by one Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), who lost his true love to arch-vampire Adam (Rufus Sewell). Years later, the unstoppable army of the undead are set to win the American Civil War at Gettysburg on behalf of the South, unless the beleaguered President can come up with a way to defeat them entirely....

It is nonsense, obviously. But it's thoroughly enjoyable nonsense performed at full tilt with a healthy splattering of gore and monsters (make-up effects by Greg Cannom) and a couple of terrific CGI-heavy sequences: one in the middle of a horse stampede, and the climactic face-off on a steam train hurtling towards a ravine with a rickety wooden bridge that's been set on fire (incidentally the second period-set movie with Rufus Sewell as the villain climaxing with an extended fight on a train, after The Legend Of Zorro). This latter setpiece is a far more satisfying train disaster sequence than the one in director Timur Bekmambetov's previous film Wanted, if only because there aren't a dozen carriages of innocent people plummeting to their meaningless deaths purely so the charmless dick of a hero can live up to his unknown father's reputation as a murderous psychotic.

So what if Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is absolutely ridiculous? So what if some of the dialogue is on the clunky side (I confess I giggled when First Lady Mary Elizabeth Winstead called out "Hurry up, Abraham, we'll be late for the theatre!" towards the end)? I honestly don't understand the sniffy reviews this has been getting because it's terrific ghoulish fun. What exactly could you reasonably expect from that title? I still remain unconvinced about the point of a 3D version - I resent the extortionate premium charged for the privilege of watching a conversion job, so I saw it in 2D and, perhaps inevitably, there's not a single shot in the whole film that would benefit from artificial depth effects pasted in.

So don't bother shelling out the extra cash for the 3D: it's a wholly redundant gimmick that the film manages perfectly well without. It's a lot of fun, mostly done pretty well and it's far more entertaining than Steven Spielberg's upcoming Oscar-stomper Lincoln (with Daniel Day-Lewis and no vampires) can possibly ever be. Not only is this movie far more enjoyable than it had any right to be, it's probably the most enjoyable vampire movie I've seen in years (and I'm generally not a fan of the genre). So stovepipe hats off to them. Meanwhile, I look forward to Isambard Kingdom Brunel: Demon Terminator, Emmeline Pankhurst: Werewolf Destroyer and Frederic Chopin: Dalek Eradicator.


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