Abigail Review

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In Abigail, Radio Silence try to reinvent the modern vampire movie.

PLOT: A group of criminals kidnap a young girl who isn’t what she seems.

REVIEW: There was a period in my youth when vampire films ranked amongst the coolest in the horror genre. Films such as The Lost Boys, Fright Night, Near Dark, and From Dusk Till Dawn knew how to tell a story while not forgetting to show us a good time. With directing duo Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett’s latest film, Abigail, this pair delivers by bringing the fun back into horror. As with 2019’s Ready or Not, this genre-mixing rollercoaster primarily takes place in a large mansion, but instead of one lead being hunted, it’s an entire group.

The film jumps right into gear with the abduction of Abigail (Alisha Weir), the 12-year-old ballerina who is the daughter of a very powerful and wealthy man. Guaranteed a hefty ransom for the kidnapping is a motley crew of miscreants, each with their own quirks and secrets: Former dirty detective Frank (Dan Stevens), the enforcer and musclebound Peter (Kevin Durand), former Army medic Joey (Melissa Barrera), the spoiled hacker Sammy (Kathryn Newton), ex-Marine and gunman Rickles (William Catlett), and the wheelman Dean (Angus Cloud). Once they rendezvous at another location, the group is met by the heist organizer, Lambert (Giancarlo Esposito). They are given simple instructions: no real names, no personal information, no cell phones. Just 24 hours of babysitting a pre-teen. Being given the task of sole caretaker to Abigail, Joey learns that something bad will happen almost immediately. After discovering the potential identity of Abigail’s father, the group may have bitten off more than they can chew.

We all know going in, this is not your typical 12-year-old girl. Bloodshed looms on the horizon, but the film takes its time to give us the promise of the trailers. This could have been a disappointment, however, the cleverly plotted and witty script, written by Stephen Shields and Guy Busick, unfolds with skill. In the first half, the storyline gives us just what we need to know about the characters, more often than not, in hilarious ways. Sure, they may be lowlifes, but we are emotionally invested before the stakes escalate.

Returning from Radio Silence’s Scream films is Barerra, who is in top form as the heroine of the group. While her role does not require the delivery of comedic punches, like the remaining cast, her character, Joey, easily switches from a caring mother to a full-on gun-toting badass. Sharing palpable chemistry with Barerra is Catlett, our stoic ex-marine, which adds to our emotional investment in the members of this group. Paired up with Barrera is a scene-stealing Stevens. As expected, this man is really leaning into his character. The filmmakers and Stevens are fans of the show I Think You Should Leave, which influences some of the qualities of ex-detective Frank. With his slick-backed hair, I was almost waiting for him to talk about his love for sloppy steaks. You know, a real piece of shit. Much like the lead character in Ready or Not, Newton is the one really put through the wringer. When Sammy is not being thrown into a pool of rotting bodies, she delivers some of the film’s funniest moments, especially when partnered with Cloud as Dean. His comedic timing shows another side we had not seen in previous roles. Real laugh-out-loud moments come from Durand, who plays his character as a hulking mimbo. Peter is a tough yet dumb, loveable enforcer who refuses to believe what’s going on when the bloodshed begins. However, it’s the film’s titular character who is the true star of the show. Weir’s performance as Abigail is nothing short of spectacular. Her portrayal of a scared little girl, afraid of her kidnappers, is convincing. Although, when the monster inside her comes out, Abigail’s pirouettes are lethal, resulting in a blood-soaked ballet.

Abigail review

And blood there is. Straight from the cast, this is the bloodiest film they’ve worked on, and I believe it. The excessive use of blood cannons in this movie takes me back to the glory days of genre films. And Abigail really lets it explode, particularly in the film’s final act.

From the ensemble cast, incredibly detailed production design by Susie Cullen, the choreography of Belinda Murphy, and the practical effects of Matthew Smith, Abigail is a guaranteed good time. It is one of the better vampire films I’ve seen in recent years and one the audience can really sink their teeth into. Chalk this up as another win for team Radio Silence.

Universal will be giving Abigail a theatrical release on April 19th.

Review: Abigail, a Dracula's Daughter story from Radio Silence, the team behind Ready or Not, Scream (2022), and Scream VI

8

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Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/abigail-review/

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