Abigail Review: This Vampire Flick Has Bite

From the twisted minds of directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, the creative forces behind modern horror hits like Ready or Not and the latest Scream movies, comes Abigail – a deliriously demented genre mashup that takes the vampire mythos for a bloody new spin. Penned by Stephen Shields and Guy Busick, this cinematic descent into madness follows a ragtag crew of criminals who bite off more than they can chew when their kidnapping scheme goes fang-first into supernatural territory.

Abigail takes the familiar tropes of the vampire film and injects them with a wicked concoction of dark humor, bone-chilling thrills, and an audacious genre alchemy. It’s a deliriously fresh spin on an ancient legend that sinks its teeth into the crime caper formula, creating an unholy hybrid that demands to be experienced on the big screen.

With a deft grasp of horror aesthetics and a tongue planted firmly in cheek, Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett have crafted a wild cinematic ride that remolds vampire lore for the modern age. From its gnarly practical effects to its twisted character arcs, Abigail keeps audiences on their toes, offering a bloody good time that’s part grisly gothic nightmare, part eccentric underworld romp. Buckle up for a vampire flick like no other – one that draws fresh blood from a centuries-old monster.

The actual plot of Abigail the movie is…

The setup is spooky, simple, and perfectly kooky: a ragtag gang of crooks plans the ultimate score – kidnapping 12-year-old ballerina Abigail for a $50 million ransom from her wealthy, nefarious father. The misfit crew of criminals includes the tough-as-nails Joey, unhinged wildcard Frank, tech geek Sammy, and several other sketchy archetypes with rap sheet resumes. But as they hole up in an isolated Gothic mansion to wait out the night, they realize too late that their pint-sized hostage isn’t just a precocious kid pirouetting alone in her room.

Oh no, young Abigail harbors a monstrous secret – she’s a full-on nocturnal, blood-draining vampire, and this bumbling band of felons has just locked themselves in with her for a night of high stakes, high body counts, and endless screams. Abigail’s true, bloodsucking nature is revealed in gruesome, uncompromising fashion as the hapless kidnappers find themselves at the mercy of her inhuman abilities and insatiable thirst for hemoglobin.

From there, it’s a relentless, frantic fight for survival as the remaining criminals try desperately to outwit and outrun the petite predator. Chaos reigns as Abigail’s merciless pursuit turns the mansion’s halls into a haunted house of horrors. With no apparent escape and their numbers dwindling, the gang must use all their criminal cunning and street smarts to make it through this one immortal night alive…or face an eternity as part of Abigail’s undead vampire brood.

With the night stretching on and their options running out, fractured alliances form and bitter betrayals unfold. Abigail’s bloodlust knows no bounds, and she effortlessly picks off the kidnappers one-by-one with a ruthless, almost balletic grace. It’s a brutal dance of death where every fancy pirouette could end in a fatal bite to the jugular. Can this dysfunctional crew put aside their differences long enough to take down the tiny terror in their midst? Or will Abigail’s fangs have the last laugh?

The Horror Facts Analysis of Abigail

Where Abigail truly excels is in its masterful direction, lush cinematography, and gripping performances. Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, fresh off their successful reboot of the Scream franchise, bring a stylish visual flair and wicked sense of fun that elevates the material far beyond its outrageous premise. Their background in revitalizing classic horror properties shines through, infusing even the most over-the-top and gory sequences with a palpable sense of dread and tension.

The filmmakers wring maximum atmosphere out of the Gothic mansion setting, utilizing its labyrinthine layouts and decaying opulence to chilling effect. Atmospheric lighting casts ominous shadows at every turn, while the camerawork snakes through the location’s shadowy corners and dimly lit hallways with a creeping menace. It’s the perfect haunted playground for Abigail’s supernatural game of cat-and-mouse.

The performances are what really allow this delirious vampire tale to sink its teeth in and draw blood. Young Alisha Weir is simply a revelation in the titular role, seamlessly shifting from innocent, pirouetting ballerina to ravenous, feral monster with hypnotic ease. Her physicality and body movement convey both Abigail’s delicate grace and animalistic menace in a way that’s utterly captivating. It’s a star-making turn that’s sure to lurk in audiences’ nightmares.

The ensemble cast of hapless kidnappers each inject plenty of flavor and grit into their roles as well. Melissa Barrera finds surprising depth as Joey, the reluctant ringleader torn between her criminal impulses and her motherly instincts. Dan Stevens seems to be having a blast as the unhinged, foul-mouthed wildcard Frank, bringing a manic, unnerving energy. Kathryn Newton holds her own as the resourceful tech geek Sammy too, providing some welcome dry humor amidst the escalating chaos.

On the script and narrative front, Abigail derives much of its devilish delight from its reimagining and reinvention of the 1936 vampire film Dracula’s Daughter. Writers Stephen Shields and Guy Busick have taken the core premise of that cult classic as a jumping-off point, imaginatively blending classic vampire horror with the twisty thrills of a crime caper premise. It’s a heady, tongue-in-cheek concoction of genre madness that keeps audiences on their toes.

This blending of horror and crime thriller elements allows the film to explore intriguing moral complexities amidst the utterly bonkers supernatural action. Each of the kidnapping crew is fleshed out with a nuanced backstory that adds layers of pathos, gray moral shades, and tough choices to their desperate struggle to survive Abigail’s unrelenting reign of terror. Despite their criminality, we can’t help but root for this ragtag group of antiheroes as the night wears on.

Dan Stevens and Melissa Barrera in Abigail (2024)

Was Abigail worth watching?

Abigail is a bloody delight, reveling in creative kills and delirious genre mashups while still finding room to build atmospheric tension and stylish visuals. One of its greatest strengths lies in how it revamps vampire lore for a new era with an ingeniously fresh spin. By taking the classic 1936 film Dracula’s Daughter as a loose inspiration, it crafts an original, subversive take on the archetypal vampire story.

The titular Abigail herself is a wonderfully unique creation – an aristocratic, bloodsucking ballet dancer who pirouettes between prim and proper decorum and feral, monstrous predator at the drop of a hat. Her vampiric abilities and the rules that govern her behavior keep audiences delightfully off-balance and guessing throughout. Just when you think you have a grasp on her powers and weaknesses, the film zigs in a new, unexpected direction.

Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett’s film also deftly balances its horror elements with suspenseful thrills and a wicked vein of dark, gallows humor. The juxtaposition of Abigail’s almost whimsical ballet movements with her shockingly brutal bloodletting creates a unique tonal balance of the beautiful and the monstrous. One moment you’re chuckling at the absurd premise, the next you’re recoiling in gleeful terror as another kidnapper meets a grisly demise. It’s a tough tonal tightrope to walk, but the film navigates it with devilish skill.

Much of that tonal control can be attributed to the film’s impeccable atmosphere and visual style. The decaying Gothic mansion setting is a sumptuous playground for chills, with its ornate production design and moody lighting creating a palpable sense of dread around every shadowy corner. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett’s directorial flair brings this haunted playground to vivid, haunting life through a mastery of cinematic craft. Abigail is dripping with stylish camera movements and a keen eye for unsettling imagery.

That said, the film doesn’t always stick the landing when it comes to tying up its batty narrative threads. While largely airtight in its own delightfully demented internal logic for much of the runtime, Abigail does suffer from some contrived plot points and detours that strain credulity even for a vampire romp. A few too many instances of characters making head-scratching, illogical decisions typical of the horror genre pull you out of the otherwise taut and thrilling narrative.

Relatedly, some characters’ decisions, motivations, and arcs are rendered a bit uneven, particularly in the third act as the script tries to inject more grounded emotional backstories and pathos that don’t quite mesh with the film’s tongue-in-cheek spirit. These more serious notes largely fail to land among the otherwise gleefully bonkers supernatural chaos unfolding. While admirable in their ambition to add shades of gray, they come across as tonal missteps in an otherwise confident and deliriously over-the-top genre piece.

These are minor quibbles for a film firing on so many delirious cylinders. When Abigail is leaning full-tilt into its batty premise and not getting bogged down in clunky character dramatics, it’s an absolute scream – a thrilling revamp of vampire lore that isn’t afraid to go for the jugular with both teeth and tongue planted firmly in cheek. For horror fans, genre lovers, and anyone who delights in outrageously fresh spins on the classic movie monster, it’s a must-see that draws rich, new blood for an ancient legend.

Kevin Durand, Kathryn Newton, William Catlett, and Melissa Barrera in Abigail (2024)

Our Verdict

I can confidently say that Abigail is one of the most wildly entertaining and ingenious genre mashups I’ve seen in quite some time. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett have breathed fresh, bloody new life into the vampire movie canon in ways I didn’t think were possible. By taking the archetypal vampire mythology and flipping it on its head with audacious twists and turns, they’ve carved out a unique niche that feels both reverentially respectful of the classics while also boldly modernizing the lore for a new generation of audiences.

The sheer impact of Abigail lies in how it proves that even the most well-trodden horror premises can be subverted in delightfully unexpected ways when put in the right creative minds. As a diehard horror fan myself, this film was an absolute no-brainer must-see delight from the moment that tantalizing premise was announced. And I’m thrilled to report it more than delivered on that bonkers potential with a gnarly, no-holds-barred romp that doesn’t pull a single punch.

But here’s the truly impressive part – despite luxuriating in over-the-top graphic violence and pushing the boundaries of good taste, Abigail’s self-aware comedic streak and deft balance of tones make it shockingly accessible for general audiences as well. Thanks to the filmmakers’ impeccable command of genre thrills and black humor, literally anyone can buy a ticket for this wildly entertaining cinematic roller coaster ride.

When the credits rolled, I walked away in awe of just how singular and assured of a revamp this was for the iconic vampire genre. By straddling the line between legit scares and tongue-in-cheek comedy with devilish glee, Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett have added a refreshing new color to horror’s classic black and red palette. Backed by a phenomenally game cast giving it their all and unmistakable directorial verve, Abigail stands tall as a fang-in-cheek supernatural romp that draws rich, new blood for that immortal movie monster. Mark my words, this ballerina vampire’s debut will go down as an unequivocal cult hit for the ages. I can’t wait to see where this creative team sinks its teeth into next.

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