Abigail (2024) | Review

A simple kidnap-and-ransom scheme where a ragtag crew of crooks—each with an alias that sounds like they moonlight as jazz musicians—realizes their hostage isn’t just a tween ballerina but a ghoul of a grander scale. Let’s just say, they didn’t see that twist coming even with night vision. Despite the trailers giving away more than a vampire volunteering for a dental ad, the film surprises with sly twists and turns, leading us through a tight script that moves almost as fast than a vampire fleeing at sunrise.

Abigail, the latest romp from the Radio Silence duo Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, sinks its teeth into the horror-comedy genre with fang-tastic flair. This film, a mashup of Saw’s deadly games and the cult classic vibes of From Dusk Till Dawn, takes us into the heart of a mansion with more secrets than a vampire has years. Achieving the right blend of humor and horror is no small feat. Yet, with their track record of blood-splattered hilarity in Ready or Not and their stabs at the Scream series, Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett have mastered this art.

Penned by Stephen Shields alongside the directors’ usual cohort, Guy Busick, Abigail subtly tips its hat to one of my faves, Dracula’s Daughter (1936). This nod is not so much in the narrative as in spirit—think less direct lineage, more like borrowing a cape and running into the night with it. In this Universal classic, the Countess Marya Zaleska plays with the shadows of her nature under a Production Code’s watchful eye. Shields and Busick seem to have seized the concept of Dracula’s offspring and sprinted into the cinematic woods with it. Visually, Abigail is as dark and sharp as the teeth it bears, with Aaron Morton’s cinematography slicing through each scene and Brian Tyler’s score knitting the tonal shifts together.

Our anti-heroes are as delightful as they are doomed. Yes, they’re cliched, but who cares? Abigail isn’t going for the Oscar. Melissa Barrera plays it straight as “Joey,” keeping her cool even as the walls (and maybe some heads) start splattering. Dan Stevens, as “Frank,” swaps his policeman’s badge for criminal cred, proving yet again he can morph faster than a vampire dodges a stake. Kathryn Newton as “Sammy” dishes out tech jargon with a side of sass, and Kevin Durand adds a lovable lunk to the mix, proving that even muscle heads can have heart under all that brawn. And let’s pour one out for the late Angus Cloud, whose brief but memorable performance as “Dean” reminds us that every cloud has a silver lining, even in a horror flick.

As for our pint-sized powerhouse, Alisha Weir as Abigail is nothing short of supernatural, straddling the line between innocent ballerina and ancient evil with poise. Her performance could very well be the launch pad for a franchise, provided the filmmakers move at vampire speed to capitalize on her chilling charm. Weir oscillates between doe-eyed ballerina and toothy predator with a finesse that might leave you cheering for the monster. Our vampiric heroine doesn’t just have a double set of fangs; she rewrites the old vampire playbook—garlic and crosses are so last millennium, but a stake through the heart? Always en vogue. And while her daddy dearest might be Dracula, he’s more a man of mystery than ever.

While Abigail might not keep you up at night trembling, it compensates with a bloody good time and energy so infectious it could raise the undead. Its heart may occasionally beat out of rhythm with its humor, veering into the overly sentimental with a side of schmaltz, but it’s a minor misstep in what is otherwise a rollicking ride. In the grand cinema of things, Abigail’s memory might be as fleeting as a vampire’s reflection in a mirror—but it’s sure to leave a mark while it lasts.

3.5 Boats

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