'Abigail' Brings Nasty Fun Back to Horror

Directed By Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett

Starring Melissa Barrera, Dan Stevens, Kathryn Newton, Will Catlett, Kevin Durand, Angus Cloud, Alisha Weir, Matthew Goode, Giancarlo Esposito

Photo: Bernard Walsh / Universal Pictures

BY Josh KorngutPublished Apr 19, 2024


With competitors like NEON, A24 and Blumhouse currently going toe-to-toe-to-toe in the prestige horror arena, the genre space sometimes feels a bit too self-serious nowadays. The 2024 spooky release calendar has been especially guilty, with recent scary outings like Immaculate, The First Omen, Imaginary, Night Swim and Late Night with the Devil all being too rigid to even crack a smile or attempt any sort of humour.

Cue Abigail, the most recent project from filmmakers Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, collectively known as Radio Silence, the same team responsible for Ready or Not, Scream (2022) and Scream VI. And this vampire ballerina arrives like a welcome bat out of hell: mean, fun and out for blood.

In the film, a colourfully mismatched group of professional criminals are brought together to abduct the daughter of an extremely powerful man. Once the child is obtained, all they have to do is babysit her overnight in a secluded gothic estate. Led by an ex-cop (portrayed by an especially intense Dan Stevens), the group hunker down and enjoy themselves in the lavish home as they wait on their massive payouts.

Rounding out this breakfast club of criminals are the film's tortured protagonist played by Melissa Barrera, a bubbly teen hacker (Kathryn Newton), the late Angus Cloud as a burnt out getaway driver, and Kevin Durand, the friendly French-Canadian muscle. No names are shared as the group works towards a common goal. But when Abigail (Alisha Weir), the child they're holding ransom, turns out to be blood-hungry vampire ballerina, things go south for our team of misfits fast.

The aforementioned ensemble brings the most texture and excitement to this gruesome little feast of genre cinema. Aside from Barrera, each player is able to bring in a unique and deeply engaging presence to help uphold the foundation of this nasty little shit show. Newton is an absolute standout whose scene-stealing charm and comedy chops often elevate the film from a somewhat generic action-horror movie to a cult classic in the making. Newton's character steals the show with a gothic camp ballet performance that'll hold the whole theatre by the throat.

But it's Radio Silence who create the careful balance of fun and frightening — a combination that makes Abigail something special. The team behind the recent Scream reboots have a keen eye for parsing out the right amount of horror and humour, a delicate science that those less familiar with the genre often get wrong. It's clear these men have a deep love and respect for the genre, a space they've been working in for decades since their standout segments in the knockout Southbound anthology.

While the creatives behind Abigail may have gotten things mostly right, I was still disappointed by an uninspired fight sequence that bookends the film, a Marvel-esque wrap up tactic that's boring and equally uninspired. And even worse, the lead performance by Barrera is about as charismatic as a piece of Lake Ontario driftwood. Compared to the rest of the team, Barrera's line delivery is stiff, dull and at times comically bad.

All qualms aside, Abigail still manages to impress and entertain with buckets of blood, dry humour and an extremely fun setup. It might not always make total sense, but it's a fun-as-hell dark ride that'll keep you from dozing off in your seat.

(Universal Pictures)

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