Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter sounds like a skit from Saturday Night Live. The regulars come out, talking about how afraid they are to go out at night and the host for the week (if a guy, of course) comes out of the shadows wearing a stovepipe hat and beard, announcing himself as “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.” Freeze frame and a title card appears. The skit goes on for another six or seven minutes, maybe with jokes about how his real name is Abraham Van Helsing, but he changed it for professional reasons. The skit ends with him going off to the theatre and one of the regulars steps out of the shadows, draws and gun, freeze frame and title card “John Wilkes Booth: Vampire Hunter Hunter.”

James Kakalios, a physicist and science consultant for the movies (among them Watchmen) says in genre material you can have only one impossible/improbable thing from which everything else logically follows. So, if an alien from a planet orbiting a red sun winds up on Earth and our yellow sun gives him “powers far beyond those of mere mortals,” maybe he can run faster than a speeding bullet and be more powerful than a locomotive… but it won’t allow him to, say, always pick winning lottery numbers. So if vampires are real and they mean to do us harm and somebody has to stop them… Why not the 16th President of the United States?

The vampires Abe battles aren’t our average Twilight/True Blood—suckers: these nosferatu seem to have no trouble with daylight (there is a visual joke that might explain that one), don’t sleep in coffins and there’s nary a stake or cross or drop of holy water in sight. Oddly, one moment they’re incredibly strong and the next they can be sent sprawling with a solid right to the jaw. And like werewolves, they are vulnerable to silver. Maybe all that’s explained in the book.

And for me, that’s the plus and the minus for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Author and screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith has made a mini-career of monster-mash-ups starting with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and most recently Unholy Night, wherein the Three Wise Men are more like wise guys, helping Joseph, Mary and their infant son escape to Egypt. Part of the fun of his writing is his offering alternate interpretations for real (or real literary) events that involve something supernatural. (Like the reason for the slave trade, not cheap labor, but cheap food! Or the Battle of Gettysburg being the last stand against vampires, not Confederates, invading the North.)

While it’s fun to watch these little tweaks… you can’t take it seriously, on any level. Sure, it’s entertaining, but… as much as it pains me to admit it, even alien toy robots fighting endlessly over a magic battery has more gravitas than the fight for the nation’s soul… against vampires. You don’t have to be a devotee of the History channel (well, before they were taken over by reality shows) to have trouble accepting that Mary Todd Lincoln looks a lot hotter on film than her photographs suggest, or seeing Honest Abe bust ninja moves with a tricked-out axe that would make James West green with envy.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is very entertaining and has a few nice surprises, but, like most of the movies built around Saturday Night Live skits (the Blues Brothers and Wayne and Garth being notable exceptions), what was goofy fun for six minutes sort of wears thin over two hours.

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