Abigail film poster and movie review

Movie Reviews

Abigail

Reviewed by:
Luke Bonanno on April 19, 2024

Theatrical Release:
April 19, 2024

"Abigail" is high-concept, low-intelligence horror where your mind has nowhere to turn but predicting the order and manner in which characters are killed off.

Running Time109 min

RatingG

Running Time 109 min

RatingG

Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett

Stephen Shields, Guy Busick

Melissa Barrera (Joey), Dan Stevens (Frank), Alisha Weir (Abigail), Will Catlett (Don Rickles), Kathryn Newton (Sammy), Kevin Durand (Peter), Angus Cloud (Dean), Giancarlo Esposito (Lambert), Matthew Goode (Kristof Lazar)


Abigail (2024)

by Luke Bonanno

The directing duo of Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett move on from the Scream franchise they revitalized with a couple of quick, well-received “requels” but stick to the horror genre in Abigail, a bloody and bonkers ride that filmmakers with less success would never be able to get made. At least less proven directors would not get to make it like this, with a $28 million budget and a high-profile wide release from Universal Pictures.

Thanks to the marketing department’s decision not to be coy, Abigail can, and likely will, be summed up in two words: vampire ballerina. The film establishes its titular 12-year-old (Alisha Weir of Netflix’s Matilda the Musical) early on as a prolific ballet dancer who rehearses on her own in an empty lavish theater.

In "abigail", six strangers team up to abduct a young ballerina in anticipation of a handsome ransom.

Six strangers team up to abduct and sedate the girl. The specifics of the job are slowly revealed to them by their terse, professional organizer Lambert (Giancarlo Esposito), who insists the six maintain their anonymity and assigns them the names of Rat Pack members they’ll use for the next twenty-four hours. In that time, they are to babysit the kidnapped girl and wait for her wealthy, powerful father to pay a handsome ransom.

Our time is largely spent getting to know Abigail’s abductors. They include Joey (Scream‘s Melissa Barrera), a mother in recovery; Frank (Dan Stevens), a slick but volatile former detective; hard-drinking Quebecois enforcer Peter (Kevin Durand); former Marine “Don Rickles” (William Catlett); young hacker Sammy (Kathryn Newton); and derpy driver Dean (the late Angus Cloud of HBO’s “Euphoria”). For the kidnapping, each of the six is looking forward to a much-needed payday of $7 million. But while visions of dollar signs dance in their heads, the gang is disarmed to learn that Abigail’s father is the notorious kingpin Kristof Lazar. The bombshell is enough to send some of the captors heading for the mansion’s doors, only to find them locked and impenetrable.

Seems like it’s going to be a long night. It’s also going to be a violent night once Abigail reveals her nature as a powerful, near-immortal vampire. Of course, her captors begin dying off and turn against each other in distrust. With each new threat, the captors downgrade their hopes for the night from indefinite financial security to simply avoiding a painful demise.

The screenplay by Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett’s repeat scribe Guy Busick (Ready or Not and their two Scream movies) and Irish journeyman Stephen Shields does a decent job of fleshing out characters and assigning them stakes and motivations. But it still settles into standard-issue horror movie narrative once it pits these relatively novice criminals against that fierce, fanged centuries-old girl in a tutu.

At all times, the script and directors keep us a notch above bottom rung horror, but at no time do they reach for the elevated horror status that one of their Scream characters memorably voiced a preference for. This is merely high-concept, low-intelligence horror where your mind has nowhere to turn but predicting the order and manner in which characters are killed off. That design, of course, is an integral part of Scream and far too much horror to mention here. Gladly, Abigail has a sense of humor to its ridiculousness, which makes it easier to endure than comparably absurd genre works, but more of the comedy misses its mark than hits it.

The titular ballerina abigail (alisha weir) proves to be a handful.

Abigail was announced to be in development just one year ago as a reboot of the 1936 Universal Classic Monsters film Dracula’s Daughter. That film does not seem particularly well or fondly remembered, so it’s not too surprising that Universal didn’t force that title on this.

Even without a recognizable brand in the title, Abigail is still expected to open in first place at the box office, where it faces more competition from Alex Garland’s Civil War in its second weekend than the two other films that are opening. If it meets expectations, the film should add to Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett’s reputation for quickly made, clearly profitable slasher flicks. What it does not do for me is hold much creative hope for future post-Scream undertakings.

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