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Review: Abigail (2024)

Abigail (2024)

Directed by: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett

Premise: A group of criminals kidnap a little girl (Alisha Weir) and hold her for ransom only to discover that the girl is actually a vampire.

What Works: Abigail comes from filmmakers Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett who previously helmed 2022’s Scream and 2019’s Ready or Not. Abigail is consistent with their previous films especially in the way it mixes horror with a sinister sense of humor. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett do not shy away from the gore but there is a grotesque comedy to some of the violence and scares. Abigail also continues the filmmakers’ emphasis on family relationships. This theme pulls the picture together and allows the characters some depth as they cope with issues of abandonment and unfulfilled family obligations. The casting of Abigail is spot on. The outstanding performer is Alisha Weir in the title role. She alternates between childish vulnerability and vampiric monstrosity with the former used manipulatively to conceal the latter. Weir is cast alongside adults but she is credibly threatening and frightening. Melissa Bareera is the lead character among the crew of criminals. Barerra plays tragic figures particularly well and her complicated relationship to her companions and to Abigail deepens her character and gives the film a humanistic quality that adds a unique element to the horror. The rest of the core cast are also well matched with their roles, especially Katheryn Newton, Agnus Cloud, and Kevin Durand. Everyone is in tune with the film’s darkly humorous pitch.

What Doesn’t: Abigail is too long. The film is slow to start and it takes a circuitous route before it finally gets to the main conflict. Some of the opening material is necessary as it establishes the characters and the layout of the mansion but this exposition is occasionally clunky. Melissa Barrera’s character is gifted with an ability to size people up and she explains everyone’s backstory. The scene works in context but it also comes across as a bit of a cheat. She gets everyone’s backstory right and pegs them into neat character types. Abigail also suffers from its trailer. This film is probably best experienced with little or no foreknowledge on the part of the viewer. The promotional materials let the major reveals go and as a result we’re waiting for the film to get to what we already know is coming.  

Bottom Line: Abigail is a little front heavy but once it gets going the picture is a lot of fun, mixing scares with humor and a touch of humanity. The emphasis on characterization gives the movie a little more dramatic weight than the average vampire movie.

Episode: #995 (May 5, 2024)