Movie Review: “Abigail”


Abigail movie review

Sometimes you just need to see a gleefully malevolent vampire ballerina…and cinema abides. Other times, you go to the theater to investigate the intricacies of romantic relationships, or to see a world beset by war, and try to understand how the human soul can experience such transcendent highs while surrounded by such pernicious and savage hideousness. But when you are seeking an itch that only “Abigail” can provide, look no further than the coterie of wisecracking criminals facing off against the unrelenting force of a vampiric little girl who occasionally breaks out in her ballet routine during her violent expressions. Luckily directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (who are collectively known as Radio Silence) have crafted such a film and done so with as much heart and wit as it requires to create a truly entertaining time at the theater. “Abigail” isn’t perfect—it could probably stand to lose 15-20 minutes and the ending doesn’t land as neatly as it could—but it is a hilariously and ingenuously blood-soaked movie that is absolutely worth your time and attention.

A nameless group of criminals have been assembled to pull off a job—kidnap a little girl (Alisha Weir) and wait a day or so until the father pays the outrageous ransom. Upon entering their safe house for the duration of the task, each are given their Rat Pack-inspired name by Lambert (Giancarlo Esposito), the gentleman that assembled them together per their specific skill sets. There’s the muscle, Peter (Kevin Durand), Dean the driver (Angus Cloud), hacker Sammy (Kathryn Newton), former Marine Rickles (Wiliam Catlett) with his ever-present rifle, ex-cop and leader of the team Frank (Dan Stevens), and medic with questionable addictive problems of her own, Joey (Melissa Barrera). Joey is very protective of their newly acquired ward, but it quickly becomes apparent that her concern is misplaced as Abigail reveals herself to be more than capable of handling those who have been gathered. With heavy locks in place, it’s up to the crooks to figure out what’s going on and how to survive.

The screenplay for “Abigail” deserves a lot of respect as it deftly balances its WTF-ery with hilarity. Writers Stephen Shields and Guy Busick could have left the comedy in the script to just reactions and observations about the insanity of what is occurring with their vampiric antagonist. But, instead, they went further along and developed real characters where the joke isn’t just that X is happening but how Y Person reacts to it happening to them. Think of “Ghostbusters”—the joke isn’t only just that Bill Murray got slimed but that it’s sardonic Bill Murray reacting to being slimed by some corpulent ghost. That sort of personality calculus is intensely hard to craft, figuring out what types of people would be best to respond to the deadly absurd situation in their midst. But Shields’ and Busick’s script, along with the work of Radio Silence, does a great job of figuring out those intangibles and where each sort of joke and reaction belongs alongside each new horrific act by the titular character.

And while there is no dispute that “Abigail” is a horror film—no movie could have this many buckets of artificial blood splattered and ‘splotted all over the place and not be considered a horror movie—it’s not a particularly scary affair, there are very few jump scares with most of the frights stemming from the particularly gruesome manners in which people are dispatched or the visceral violence handed out amongst everyone in these very close proximities. The movie that “Abigail” most resembles in its genealogy is “From Dusk Till Dawn” in its combination of crime, comedy, and vampiric transpirings, but even that isn’t a totally accurate depiction. The gothic house setting, perfectly established and creepily maintained, adds a whole ‘nother layer to the horror environment that helps to increase the intensity, benefitting both the violence and humor.

Every actor stands out in “Abigail” and every single one has at least a couple of moments to shine. One could argue that Esposito and Catlett are given the least to do, but even they are memorable in their roles. Newton, Cloud, and Durand are probably the comedic highlights…but again, “Abigail” is generous with its humor, and everyone is given at least one great reaction line or insult or just generally silly moment that is fun. Coupled with the ruthless way in which the script disposes of everyone—this is not a movie to get attached to characters—and it’s a real even playing field across the board of the cast, with all of them bringing it in spectacular fashion, revealing that it’s not just the buckets of gore that are coursing through the movie’s lifelines but also a commanding sense of personality, timing, and juxtaposition.

“Abigail” is thoroughly delightful on every level. Again, some small issues with pacing and the ending, but nothing that is enough to drown out the large grin most people will be wearing on their faces for most of the movie. Radio Silence’s unique film has its genealogy in other works, but all the important factors come together so well and with so much wit that it’s hard not to hail it as a singular achievement. Sometimes audiences need to see a character throw up blood for about a minute and a half, and “Abigail” knows this about us and celebrates it alongside us.


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