Film Review: Abigail deliciously balances bloody gore and knowing humour

After the underperformance of both Dracula: The Last Voyage of the Demeter and Renfield last year, the vampire-centric subsect of storytelling – especially within the horror genre – seemed, quite fittingly, void of life with audiences.  But seeing as how much new life they injected into the once-dormant Scream series with their one-two punch of the 2022 sequel-cum-reboot and its vigorous sequel in 2023, the directing duo of Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin (aka Radio Silence) feel like the perfect candidates to resuscitate such.

With Abigail, an original story about a heist gone wrong and the pre-teen ballerina vampire that’s unleashed on the unsuspecting rat pack at its core, Gillett, Bettinelli-Olpin, their frequent screenwriting collaborator Guy Busick (who similarly penned the aforementioned Scream sequels), and co-writer Stephen Shields (The Hole in the Ground) deliciously balance bloody gore and knowing humour across its 110 minutes in a manner that brings to mind the unbridled fun of their 2019 breakout Ready or Not.

We’re introduced to the titular Abigail (Alisha Weir, an absolute treat) and her dancing prowess across the film’s opening credits as she performs the final act of Swan Lake to an empty auditorium.  It’s quite a sweeping sequence, one that’s intercut with the arriving presences of the ragtag crew that have been assigned to kidnap her for a considerable ransom – a cool $50 million.  All going under aliases to protect their true identities, we meet the sharp-eyed Joey (Melissa Barrera); the morally bankrupt Frank (Dan Stevens); Peter (Kevin Durand), the sweet muscle-for-hire; Sammy (Kathryn Newton), the young hacker; Dean (the late Angus Cloud), who doesn’t seem to take anything seriously; and Rickles (William Catlett), who, unlike the infuriating Dean, does.

Just why they need to kidnap her and hold her ransom in a secluded mansion for a strict 24 hours is something their overseer Lambert (Giancarlo Esposito) doesn’t divulge, but it all seems like a simple enough task to perform in order to walk away with their cut of the cash.  Given that this is a horror movie set in an expansive mansion, we are all too aware this won’t be a night of survival for the majority of this crew, but Abigail revealing herself as a blood-sucking vampire with a penchant for human evisceration? That they did not see coming!

By the time they’re aware of what the young Abigail is capable of it’s all a little too late, with the house specifically locked down (that pesky sunlight is no longer an issue), leaving Joey and co. to fend for themselves.  But as much as they think they know about vampires – there’s some amusing exchanges regarding cinematic clichés on the matter of how to kill such a creature – it doesn’t quite assist them when the tyke literally twirls down the halls as she gleefully rips whoever is in her path apart.  The fact that she does incorporate dance movements into her killing spree speaks to the fine line of campy flair that the Radio Silence team adhere to.  There’s buckets of blood, often exaggeratingly so, and plenty of intentional laughs to be had, but the horror is never taken lightly, with the tone of their heist-gone-wrong comedy and the disgusting lathering of violence on hand complementing each other with an ease.

Whilst the marketing for Abigail can’t help but reveal the character’s true nature – something that is unmasked in the film’s first third – much of the narrative moves with an unpredictable footing, allowing the film to thoroughly entertain as it brings to mind several other genre titles it pays homage to throughout.  It’s an original story, but the horror influences ring true, resulting in a genre effort that satisfies both the purists and the general masses who are simply keen for bloody escapism.

Heads roll, bodies explode, and Barrera continues to powerfully embody the “final girl” figure with a distinct strength and rejection of the atypical formation of such a pattern.  As horror perseveres, Abigail bites mighty with a razor-sharp script and a plentiful ensemble.


Abigail is now screening in Australian theatres.

Peter Gray

Seasoned film critic. Gives a great interview. Penchant for horror. Unashamed fan of Michelle Pfeiffer and Jason Momoa.