In Wanted, Russian director Timur Bekmambetov unleashed mystical assassins who could shoot bullets with curved trajectories, who routinely deflected bullets with bullets and who received their missions from a magical loom. His follow-up merely features Abraham Lincoln hunting vampires. It’s beneath him. Author Seth Grahame-Smith has made a cottage industry out of product whose best attributes are the titles. It’s nice, with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, that he took all that time to seamlessly weave the ravenous undead into Jane Austen’s prose, but he doesn’t appear to be the deranged fantasist to make something that lives up to his titles. His is laborious work exerted on what would best function as a tweet on a slow afternoon.
The inevitable movie version of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, scripted by Grahame-Smith, is what you’d expect and little more. Honest Abe (Benjamin Walker) eviscerates vampires out of vengeance. Nancy Lincoln died not from milk sickness but from a vampire bite. Young son Willie bit it the same way. The Confederates are peppered with Dixie bloodsuckers out to create their own nation—or something. (A society to themselves, without human bodies to drain for food? Vampire honcho Rufus Sewell’s grand plan is never made clear.)
History is exploited if not necessarily explored. Grahame-Smith ties supernatural beasties to the past without meaningfully connecting the two. It’s superficial, a novelty, boasting no commentary; its real-life hero is chosen essentially because he’s famous. (Grahame-Smith might have fared better writing Warren G. Harding: Vampire Hunter. That might better explain the president’s notoriously poor choices—too busy fighting draculas to competently govern America—as well as his sudden death.)
It’s a one-joke movie. But there are worse jokes. Lest we forget, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter still features Abraham Lincoln hunting vampires, albeit the crappy, overly digitized ones with fakey, swelling mouths. If one really lusts for a Timur Bekmambatov actioner about an innocent-turned-master-assassin, complete with a ridiculous train sequence, the wait for Wanted on Netflix is by now relatively short.