According to Grahame-Smith’s back story, vampires have been around for some 5,000 years, wandering the earth in search of a place they can call home. Seems they’ve found one in the American South, where they own the plantations and keep the slaves. This gives Lincoln another motive for their eradication.

Not so fast, Henry tells his protege. “Real power comes not from hate but from truth,” he says. “If vengeance is all you seek, you will never be able to save mankind. Fight this war with me, not for one man but for the whole world.”

And so Lincoln puts his ax aside, takes up the law and enters politics. He vanquishes his rival, Stephen A. Douglas (Alan Tudyk), and steals the heart of Douglas’ fiancee, Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Mary is a feisty lady and handy with a rifle. (The latter quality, at least, is presumably quite untrue to the real-life Mrs. Lincoln, who was the refined, if not always stable, scion of an aristocratic Kentucky clan).

Before long we’re in the White House, and the Civil War erupts. Adam (Rufus Sewell), the chief vein-drainer, strikes a deal with Confederate President Jefferson Davis (John Rothman) to defeat the Union Army at Gettysburg. Lincoln, however, has other ideas: He rearms himself, rounds up as much silver as he can, and faces his destiny.

The tone of “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” is, for the most part, so serious that viewers ignorant of American history might easily be lulled into thinking this is how it all really happened, were it not for the occult overlay. A certain levity does creep in now and then, though — as when Mary calls to the president from her carriage window, “Hurry up, Abe, or we’ll be late for the theater.”

The film contains relentless bloody violence, fleeting upper female nudity, and the occasional use of profanity and rough language. The Catholic News Service classification is L – limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R – restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.