Maverick Life


‘Abigail’ is a vampire horror that is all bite

‘Abigail’ is a vampire horror that is all bite
Alisha Weir in 'Abigail'. (Photo: Universal Pictures / Supplied)

From the makers of the recent ‘Scream’ movies, and cult hit ‘Ready or Not’, comes another gory horror comedy, the highly entertaining ‘Abigail’.

Fans of horror movies, especially self-referential ones, are probably familiar with directors Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, the filmmaking team behind 2022’s Scream and Scream VI, as well as 2019’s pitch-black comedy horror Ready or Not.

It’s the latter that will give you the best idea of what you’re walking into with the latest effort from production company Radio Silence, because Abigail is just as funny, and as hellishly gory, as the trailer will have you believe. Probably more so.

The titular character of Abigail, played by Matilda the Musical star Alisha Weir, is the 12-year-old, ballet-loving daughter of a powerful underworld figure. After a carefully selected group of criminals with various backgrounds and expertise kidnap her in the hopes of collecting a steep ransom, all they have to do is keep her locked up and safe overnight in an isolated mansion while Lambert (Giancarlo Esposito), the man who orchestrated the heist, collects the bounty.

The crew, given code names by Lambert, consist of leader “Frank” (Dan Stevens), black-hat hacker “Sammy” (Freaky’s Kathryn Newton), gunman “Rickles” (William Catlett), hired muscle “Peter” (Kevin Durand), driver “Dean” (Angus Cloud, in his last role) and “Joey” (Melissa Barrera), a medic who uses drugs to subdue their charge.

As the newly formed “rat pack” settles in for the next 24 hours of glorified babysitting, Abigail has other plans. As it turns out, they’re not locked in with an ordinary little girl – Abigail is a centuries-old vampire who is going to kill them off, one by one.

Part of the joy that comes from the film is the sheer absurdity of a team of criminals having kidnapped a vampire, and how the different characters react to this insane, life-or-death situation. Each of them has their own reasons for taking part in the heist, and as they come to find out, there’s very little they can trust about each other when they don’t even know each other’s real names.

As ridiculous as the premise may be, every actor throws themselves wholeheartedly into their roles.

An obvious stand-out is Weir, who did many of her own stunts and is a genuine heavyweight on screen, switching between scared child and terrifying monster with chilling effect; it cannot be easy to maintain an air of sweet innocence while being covered head to toe in blood and gore, but Weir certainly manages.


Melissa Barrera as Joey in ‘Abigail’. (Photo: Universal Pictures / Supplied)

Barrera is another standout, and though the audience is used to seeing her in horror movie roles, Scream’s Sam Carpenter walked so that Joey could run – literally. Joey’s story brings a more cohesive narrative to Abigail, and Barrera’s main character performance is a highlight. For a change, Barrera gets to play an active, layered character who isn’t just around to react to the plot, which suits her immensely, and we much preferred her work here to Scream.  

Also notable is how directors Gillett and Bettinelli-Olpin maintain a consistent balance between the realistic and the ridiculous with Abigail, and there are plenty of laughs courtesy of the script from writers Stephen Shields and Guy Busick.

It’s not as fourth wall-shattering as the Scream franchise, but there are a few times the cast gets to have a “what the f–”  moment out loud, which perfectly mirrors the audience reaction. That’s effective humour, both in its nod to what the audience is experiencing, as well as drawing you in and getting you on the same team as the characters.

Sammy (Kathryn Newton), Frank (Dan Stevens) and Peter (Kevin Durand) in ‘Abigail’. (Photo: Universal Pictures / Supplied)

And the audience wants to see more of them.

Even before the horror show kicks off, one is surprisingly invested in this group of thugs and gangsters, even if you’re just trying to guess how each of them will die. The script might be predictable in some areas but there are still some twists you won’t see coming, and genuine laugh-out-loud moments that the trailers haven’t spoiled yet.

Of course, also included in the mix are buckets and buckets of gore, and numerous exploding bodies, as only Radio Silent Productions can deliver. This adds another layer of hilarious absurdity to the entire scenario.

To their credit, Gillett and Bettinelli-Olpin also keep the film tight, and the run-time in the Goldilocks zone, where anything less would be lacking but anything more than what we get would have worn out its welcome. The balance is impeccable, as is the balance between the horror and the comedy, and the balance of comedic timing and believability from the cast.

Turns out, they got everything Just Right. DM

Abigail is in South African cinemas from Friday, 19 February 2024. This story was first published on PFangirl.


(Photo: Universal Pictures / Supplied)


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • T'Plana Hath says:

    IMHO, the vampire genre has now officially been done to death. Nothing new to see here, with the single exception that these vampires explode in a fountain of gore when you off them! It’s pretty spectacular, NGL, but if you’ve seen as many vampire movies as I have (it’s a personal point of pride that I have never watched any of the Twilight saga) this doesn’t go beyond a basic ‘splatter flick’.
    Some fair-decent jump scares, plenty of blood and guts, lots of groans from the audience – including an enthusiastic ‘About bloody time!’ from the back of the theatre when one of the characters finally bought it.
    Might make a great date flick for the younger (less jaded) audience or anyone keep on developing a deep-rooted and irrational fear of ballerinas.

    Like I said, not my bag of blood.

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