‘Abigail’ is Gory and Gripping, Dark and Inventive Horror Fun (Review)

by | Apr 19, 2024


A ragtag team of mercenaries are in way over their head after kidnapping a criminal’s daughter in this new horror film from the folks of Radio Silence.

The Radio Silence directing duo of Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett have established themselves to be two of the most exciting contemporary filmmakers in the horror genre for their remarkable ability to balance a dark sense of humor as they conjure moments of genuine fright. Ready Or Not got them mainstream recognition in 2019 while the Scream reboot and Scream VI were their first forays into franchise filmmaking, and now they returns to their well of fresh ideas with Abigail, a sharp and solid horror-comedy that keeps its audiences on the edge of their seats from start to finish thanks to the strength of its ensemble cast and clever writing.

The narrative of Abigail focuses on a ragtag team of small time crooks hired by a mysterious man named Lambert (Giancarlo Esposito) to kidnap the titular young ballerina Abigail (Alisha Weir) and hold her captive over the course of 24 hours with the intent of receiving fifty million dollars in ransom money from her crime boss father. The band of hired guns entrusted with this job hide their real identities with assumed names, including medic Joey (Melissa Barrera), ex-detective Frank (Dan Stevens), hacker Sammy (Kathryn Newton), ex-Marine Rickles (William Catlett), muscle Peter (Kevin Durand) and getaway driver Dean (Angus Cloud).

But these keepers get more than what they bargained for when they discover that Abigail isn’t just an ordinary pre-teenage girl: she’s a vampire hungry for blood, and starts picking each of them off one by one. It’s up to the remaining hirelings to keep Abigail at bay and escape from the mansion in which their mission takes place, but with it comes intrigue: what other entities does this lavish manor have to offer, what is the real intent of each mercenary in accepting this mission, and does Abigail get more from this than just a meal?

These secrets are brilliantly set up and remain gripping until Joey and her fellow malefactors come to solve them through creative direction from Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett. The Radio Silence team has proven themselves to be masters of setting up mysteries and sprinkling clues that fuel speculation and change spectators’ expectations by the scene, and Abigail is no exception, such as a point where it’s put in the head of Joey that Frank is actually an accomplice to Abigail’s father with the plan of double crossing everyone around him, which Frank vehemently denies. However, Stevens plays up the suspicious demeanor of his character so well, that it’s not easy to shake the possibility he has nefarious intentions.

To that end, the ensemble is another plus for Abigail. Every member of the cast plays off each other very well and gets their time to shine. Melissa Barrera adds an emotional center to the film as Joey, Kathryn Newton continues her streak of success in the horror genre with a show stealing performance as Sammy, and Angus Cloud is so hilarious as Dean, that it hurts literally and figuratively. His pot-fueled rambles in this posthumous performance have the capacity to bust a gut, but it’s also sad we’ll never get more work like this from an actor gone too soon. 

But Abigail is Alisha Weir’s movie, and as the titular ballerina vampire, she graces the screen with commanding range, whether it’s through her talented ballet dancing or scenes where she matches wits against her captors via her youthful innocence that’s paired with just enough intimidation to make onlookers both terrified of her manipulation tactics and curious where she’s leading her victims next in the web that is this strange estate.

Another aspect in which Radio Silence finds success in Abigail is the balancing act between the darkly comedic and genuinely terrifying sides of its premise. This shows through instances in Guy Busick and Stephen Shields’ script where characters peruse down the dark hallways of this ominous house and break the tension amongst the moody atmosphere through a perfectly timed quip that emphasizes their characters’ personalities to comedic effect, such as Sammy’s vapid naïvete or one of Peter’s many hilarious mispronunciations brought on by his lack of intelligence. And that’s before mentioning how liberal Radio Silence is in implementing gore to an absurd degree. Characters don’t just bleed, they explode in a red geyser so big and loud, viewers can only laugh at the graphic ridiculousness taking place on screen.

While a lot of the blood throughout Abigail is made practically, there is a minimal amount of CGI that exists in the form of vampiric facial expressions meant to be freaky but come off distracting. What’s also worth noting is that there isn’t much in the way of substance save for an interesting parallel between Abigail and Joey that becomes crystal clear upon the reveal of the latter’s motivations, but ultimately aren’t touched upon enough to leave a lasting emotional punch. 

But some movies set out to entertain first and foremost, and mainstream audiences as well as horror fans will be swept up in all the mysteries this story sets up, share tension-breaking laughter and wide-eyed suspense over the film’s many pivots, and have nonstop fun with this twisted horror-comedy rollercoaster with a remarkable young actress as its captain. Just when people thought the trailers gave everything away from their latest film, the Radio Silence team has a myriad of surprises up their sleeves, and that’s why everyone should seek out Abigail


RATING: ★★★★

(out of five stars)