Abigail – Film Review

In a fresh take on a Universal Monsters classic, Abigail is the latest from the Dynamic Duo of Horror, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett with a riotously fun script from frequent collaborator Guy Busick and co-writer Stephen Shields. Abigail flaunts a great ensemble cast with Scream’s new-gen frontwoman Melissa Barrera, Dan Stevens, Kathryn Newton, Kevin Durand, and Giancarlo Esposito with young Irish actress Alisha Weir in the title role.

When a group of mercenaries are brought together by Lambert (Esposito) to kidnap Abigail, the young daughter of a powerful underworld figure, and hold her for 24 hours in a remote location in order to receive a ransom of $7 million each, they soon realise the job is more than they bargained for. Aptly named after the Rat Pack to maintain their privacy, the crew consists of Joey (Barrera) a former Army medic and recovering addict, Frank (Stevens) a former detective, Sammy (Newton) a young hacker, Dean (Angus Cloud) the mumbling getaway driver, Rickles (Will Catlett) a Marine sniper, and Peter (Durand) a dim-witted but well-meaning muscle man.

As their 24 hours gets underway, things quickly spiral out of control when both Dean and Rickles turn up dead this ragtag gang realises their young ward is a bloodthirsty vampire hellbent on turning them into her next meal. Taking inspiration from the 1936 film Dracula’s Daughter, Abigail bears little resemblance to the original film, but is nonetheless an incredibly fun and violent romp through vampire lore.

There is something inherently scary about a child who kills, who embodies the opposite of innocence. Abigail is depicted sweet and delicate, dressed in blush pinks and whites with soft textures to brilliantly juxtapose her dark, violent, and dangerous inner nature. Weir really shows off her acting chops; despite being so young, she is brimming with talent and seems to really relish being the villain of this story. The way Abigail toys with the adults around her, pirouetting through the hallways and letting them believe for a moment that they have the upper hand before reminding them that she is the apex predator of the house is brilliant to watch and Weir really delivers.

The rest of the ensemble cast are excellent, especially Barrera and Stevens. As Joey and Frank, the pair flit between antagonism and allyship as the night carries on with the group deferring to them both for guidance through their nightmare. Frank is a hothead with a need for power and control, while Joey is quiet, considered, a natural leader and quick thinker. Known primarily for his roles in romcoms, Stevens initially seems out of place as the mean-talking, slick-haired former cop but like Weir, he clearly relishes playing a “bad” guy and gives the film much of its comedy with his smarmy attitude and sarcastic quips. Barrera once again cements herself as a verified final girl, after having co-led the Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett’s entries to the Scream franchise, she slips into her new role as vampire-hunting army vet with ease.

I believe horror is a natural companion to comedy, and when they combine, Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett are really in their sweet spot, proving themselves to be masters of their corner of the genre, akin to greats like Mike Flanagan and James Wan. Tonally, Abigail is reminiscent of Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett’s 2019 hit Ready or Not, leaning into the ridiculousness of the concept without making it a farce. It’s a fine line to walk but this director duo execute this masterfully, balancing the gruesome kills and gore with well-placed jokes and one-liners. The setting of a singular, isolated location helps to amp up the tension as the crew attempt to navigate the old gothic mansion with apparent threats around every corner and horrible surprises in every room.

With some well-choreographed fight scenes and sharp dialogue and blocking, Abigail is an extremely fun, blood-drenched film with endless watchability.

Abigail is in cinemas now.

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