Who Knew? Honest Abe Rid The World Of The Undead

With a movie title like Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, it's no mystery what the plot is. Young Mr. Lincoln is tutored by an experienced vampire killer and goes into training with his trusty ax. He bears a special grudge against vampires because they killed his mother.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

So a superstar athlete writes a new chapter in his career. And now let's hear about a little known chapter in the life of a superstar president.

Our critic Kenneth Turan went to see "Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter."

KENNETH TURAN: History remembers him as Honest Abe, Father Abraham, the Great Emancipator, even the Illinois Rail Splitter.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "ABRAHAM LINCOLN, VAMPIRE HUNTER")

BENJAMIN WALKER: (as Abraham Lincoln) For whatever else I am - a husband, a lawyer, a president - I shall always think of myself first and foremost as a hunter.

TURAN: "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter"? Who knew? Now the 16th president's passion for ridding the world of blood-sucking demons is revealed for all to see. In 3-D, no less.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "ABRAHAM LINCOLN, VAMPIRE HUNTER")

(SOUNDBITE OF SCREAMING)

TURAN: Young Mr. Lincoln is tutored by an experienced vampire killer and goes into training with his trusty ax. He bears a special grudge against vampires because they killed his mother.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "ABRAHAM LINCOLN, VAMPIRE HUNTER")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (as character) Tell me, Mr. Lincoln, what do you hate?

WALKER: (as Abraham Lincoln) I hated my mother was taken away.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (as character) And that you failed...

WALKER: (as Abraham Lincoln) Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (as character) ...to protect her.

WALKER: (as Abraham Lincoln) Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (as character) And that you let her die.

(SOUNDBITE OF SCREAM)

TURAN: Once he gets into office, what makes Lincoln miserable in the fetid air of Washington, D.C. is all the undead he has to eradicate before the slaves can be freed and the Union made whole. That's enough to raise a sweat in any man.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "ABRAHAM LINCOLN, VAMPIRE HUNTER")

(SOUNDBITE OF GRUNTING AND CLANGING METAL)

TURAN: Delicacy and restraint were unlikely here, but it's too bad the film's concept is more entertaining than what's on screen. A movie consisting of multiple vampire attacks quickly gets repetitive and exhausting - not to mention very, very bloody.

Even the film's use of 3-D is mostly pedestrian. It's only effective when those vampires and their grotesque dentures provide enough open wide moments to unnerve a team of Beverly Hills orthodontists.

We watch in increasing perplexity as the personal becomes political: our man in the White House discovers that Southern slavery is really all about providing healthy choices for hungry vampires. We're all slaves to something, a top vampire tells him, which makes you wish all over again that vampire hunting involved more wit and less whacking - a whole lot less whacking.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: When he talked about the fetid air of Washington, D.C., that part's true. Ken Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: It could only be MORNING EDITION, from NPR News.

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