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‘Abigail’ – A Rip-Roaring, Bloody Good Time

Ballet, blood, and a group of absolute dinguses getting eaten alive. Oh yes, this is cinema.

It's all fun and games until somebody loses... well, all their blood.
Universal Pictures.

Who says ballet is boring? Following in the vein of such classics like Fright Night, or The Lost Boys, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett’s gleeful horror-comedy is a solid entry in the endless canon of vampire flicks.

Produced by Universal Pictures, Abigail is the latest horror film by Radio Silence, the creative team behind 2019’s Ready or Not and 2022’s Scream. The team have a distinct style as filmmakers, specializing in films that balance between frightening and funny. This year, they dip their toes into the immortal genre that is the vampire movie.

I confess, vampires have long been my favorite monster. Since I first donned a cheap but surprisingly good-looking Dracula costume for a Halloween party in the first grade, I’ve been drawn to these blood-sucking fiends like tweens to sappy romance novels. And I’m far from alone. Vampires are the kind of monster that never seem to go out of fashion. Whether it be their versatility, how oddly personal they are, or just how extra they tend to be.

Naturally, the trailer for Abigail had me hooked. A group of kidnappers attempt to extort a mysterious rich recluse, only to find out their hostage, the daughter of said recluse, isn’t what she seems. Little Abigail is, in fact, a literal monster who will rip them to shreds. All while showing off what an amazing dancer she is.

Laughs and Lacerations

Both before and after the gruesome monster action starts, Abigail is carried by its charismatic cast. Melissa Barrera and Dan Stevens head the kidnappers, each operating under the aliases “Joey” and “Frank” respectively. The pair have their own distinct morals, or lack thereof, that set them apart as the film progresses.

The rest of the crew gets more than enough time to shine before the slaughter commences, with certain standouts being Kathryn Newton and the sadly departed Angus Cloud. While this motley crew are shady at best, their distinct quirks and Abigail‘s sharp script keep them endearing and easy to watch.

Vampire hunters, they are not. Dan Stevens, Kathryn Newton and Kevin Durand try to stay alive in 'Abigail', the three of them holding up various anti-vampire weapons such as garlic.
Dan Stevens, Kathryn Newton and Kevin Durand try to stay alive in ‘Abigail’. Photo Credit: Universal Pictures.

Once the hunt is on, the crew’s suffering at Abigail’s hands fires back and forth between humorous and bloodcurdling. One minute, Abigail will say or do something shocking and appropriately monstrous. The next, one of her victims will say something that draws a sigh or a full-on belly laugh.

Like previous Radio Silence productions, most of said laughs come from just how much punishment our gang of walking, talking blood bags go through. We’re laughing very much at their expense. The comedy is twisted at best, pitch-black at worst. But for those of us who enjoyed Ready or Not, or the revival of the often tongue-in-cheek Scream franchise, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Horror and comedy blend as Dan Stevens' character has found himself trying to battle Abigail.
Alisha Weir and Dan Stevens in ‘Abigail’. Photo Credit: Universal Pictures.

All the while, as I enjoyed the kidnappers’ growing misfortunes, I eagerly awaited every reappearance of our title character.

Little Monster

The movie’s tagline touts, “Children can be such monsters.” No truer statement could be made of Abigail.

The vampire is played to wicked perfection by actress Alisha Weir, who has long wished to break into the horror scene. If Abigail is any proof, we might have met the next young scream queen.

Weir doesn’t just dominates the screen, she devours it. Dispensing with campy Eastern European accents or smoldering teen angst, her pint-sized predator Abigail feels like a hellish mix between Wednesday Addams and Ridley Scott’s famous Xenomorph. She carries this sublime mix of childish joy and predatory menace, snarling and pirouetting her way from one victim to the next.

Narratively, Abigail feels like the natural result of taking an precocious little girl and giving her a taste for blood.

At times, seeing just how powerful and clever she is, one gets the feeling Abigail could probably dispose of every last character in a flash and be done with it. But, in her own words, she likes to play with her food. That playfulness, of course, makes her all the more disturbing. Abigail knows exactly what she’s doing, and is loving every minute of it.

It's her game, we're just living (or dying) in it. Weir stares at the screen with a disconcerting grin, blood down her face and on her pink dress.
Alisha Weir stars in ‘Abigail’. Photo Credit: Universal Pictures.

However, the more we learn about her, a few surprise revelations make Abigail more than just an depraved monster. As it goes with many vampire tales, there is an underlying humanity in her that shines now and then.

Rules of the Game

Cruel as she might be, Abigail is a textbook example of how complex and nuanced vampires can be. They’re creatures that often work by a set of rules, both in-universe or out. Many times, those rules act as a way to humanize what would otherwise be a mindless predator.

First, things aren’t quite squeaky clean between Abigail and her largely-unseen father Lazar. Their dynamic holds to the longstanding tradition in vampire fiction that the relationship between maker and sire is complicated, and more than a little strained. In fact, as we learn in the film’s second half, every one of Abigail’s motives stems from that messy relationship. Our little vampire princess, it turns out, has some serious daddy issues.

Second, Abigail isn’t entirely beyond reason. There is, in truth, a method to her madness, and even her choice of victims has a very concrete motive behind it. If one was lucky enough not to be on that list, she might actually be very pleasant company. So long as she isn’t hungry, of course.

Third, and most important, is the connection between her and Melissa Barrera’s protagonist Joey. Well before the truth of Abigail comes out, Joey takes it upon herself to treat Abigail with kindness. Even making an endearing pinky promise to the little girl.

A monster with a heart? A heart to heart between the two characters.
Melissa Barrera and Alisha Weir in ‘Abigail’. Photo Credit: Universal Pictures.

Even after the mask comes off, and Joey is forced to fight for her life, I couldn’t help thinking back to that promise. It had to mean something. Because if there is anything I’ve learned from years of exposure to Anne Rice’s poetic Vampire Chronicles, or the melodrama of True Blood, it’s that deals and personal exchanges mean a great deal to a vampire.

Sure enough, as the final gruesome bloodbath ensues, that little nugget pays off big time. How, exactly?

You’ll have to watch, and find out.

Immortal

There’s not much else to say about Abigail, without diving into major spoilers, so I’ll go ahead and leave off with this.

It’s heartening to know know the vampire genre is still alive and kicking. Those who marvel at the macabre, and are chomping at the bit for that next tale of the undead, will be more than pleased with this latest outing.

Even if you don’t much like ballet, give Abigail a chance. I “pinky-promise” you’ll have a good time.

Written By

I'm a lifelong denizen of the Bay Area, with a love for media in all its forms. Books, film, television, comics, they're a part of who I am and I'm happy to review them all for Trill Mag. A graduate of CSUMB, my lifelong passion in reading and writing led me here.

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