Abigail (2024)

Directed by: ,
Written by: ,
Starring: , ,

Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett

Abigail is the latest film from Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, aka Radio Silence. Having done two Scream films, they return to what they did with Ready or Not: a self-aware slice of supernatural horror primarily set in a creepy old mansion. A rag-tag team of kidnappers has been tasked with subduing and abducting a young ballerina (the titular girl) and hiding her there for 24 hours until her wealthy dad pays for her release. Only they’ve got more than they bargained for with this kid – it turns out Abigail is a vampire, and somebody has locked them in with her. A bloodsucking ballerina? It’s a neat premise that lends itself to fun, almost nostalgic, horror – a modern take on 80s adventures.

Yet what pleasantly surprised me was how straight it played parts of it. Like with Ready Or Not, there’s a tricky tightrope between having characters acknowledge the situation’s absurdity and making it seem stupid – but again, it’s a balance Radio Silence (mostly) gets right. There are times when the directors and cast members lean on the humour for laugh-out-loud moments – a meta conversation about vampire rules, and attempts to find weapons, being a highlight. There’s also a comic quality to the gore sequences, with the blood being more splatter than spatter. So it’s an absolute testament to the team, particularly Alisha Weir (who you may recognise as Matilda), that the movie conjures up as much suspense as it does. Some of this comes from the setting and mood, both of which evoke the classic monster years of bygone years. But more than that, working on a slasher series has given them a knack for staging the sorts of scare sequences that have you constantly checking the corner of the screen. Where the heck is our tiny terror going to come from next?

Unfortunately, the marketing for this film has really let it down, with Abigail’s vampirism at the forefront. While there are surprises along the way, including a potentially exciting avenue for expanding the universe, it’s a bit like how knowing Dracula is a vampire can make Stoker’s book a bit of an endurance test today. Since we know the nature of the threat, then the focal point of the mystery needs to change, and, unfortunately, the questions it raises instead do not beget subversive or interesting enough answers. As we learn more about the group and why they’ve been sent to abduct her, the explanation is underbaked. It’s almost as if the makers put placeholder revelatory dialogue in but did not lay the groundwork to explain why any of it matters, and the pay-off reminds me a bit of one of the lesser Saw sequels. Throw in a baffling timeline, where we get sun or moonlight outside, depending on the plot’s demands, and there is some slack to the second half.

This isn’t to say the writing isn’t good throughout; I found each ensemble member very watchable, and their relationships are well-developed – giving emotional weight to the slightly too goofy finale. The early scenes, in which the group attempts to read each other, were a joy to watch unfold and a good way of organically introducing bits of their backing story. As it went on, and Abigail turned the tables, I also found myself surprisingly attached to them to the point I didn’t want to see them explode – no matter how fun it was. The cast has natural chemistry, too, and as the characters turn on each other, it never feels forced – even if their constant splitting up does. Melissa Barrera has the meatiest role as “Joey” (they don’t use real names), though as per Scream, I wonder if we come to meet her character after the most interesting part of her life rather than during it. Still, her bond with Abigail is the film’s most rewarding strand. Abigail herself is an excellent creation, and like the bloody bride, Radio Silence shows once again that they can create an instantly iconic character. Though it’d be easy to compare this to other movies since it’s essentially a vamp twist on Ready or Not by way of Livid, Abigail has her own identity and, hopefully soon, her own franchise.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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About david.s.smith 456 Articles
Scottish horror fan who is simultaneously elitist and hates genre snobbery. Follow me on @horrorinatweet

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