Abigail movie poster

Abigail

In theaters April 19, 2024

Rated

,

109 minutes

Directed by: ,

Starring: , , , , , , ,

Before folks complain that there are spoilers in the trailer of Abigail (2024), let it be said that there is nothing in this wild romp of a familiar, if reimagined, vampire myth that won’t be surprising, bonkers, and frankly, fun.

Five criminals known for their skills, but unknown to each other, are hired by Lambert (Giancarlo Esposito) to kidnap and hold hostage one darling and lonely little girl (Alisha Weir) while he arranges a $50M ransom from her very rich father. If they’d known his identity and power, the much-feared and darkly fabled criminal kingpin, Kristof Lazar (Matthew Goode), they likely would have rightly refused, due to his ruthless habit of dispatching those who cross him. They’re given Rat Pack names to avoid squealing on each other should they be caught. Led by Frank, (Dan Stevens), the sharp-thinking sociopath of the group, he valiantly tries to keep in line bubbly hacker Sammy (Kathryn Newton), dumb but deadly Quebecois, Peter (Kevin Durand), recovering addict but necessary medic, Joey (Melissa Barrera), stoner stabber, Dean (Angus Cloud), and Rickles (William Catlett), the silent lookout and sharpshooter. All they have to do is keep a little girl alive until dawn to collect their money, but it’s never that easy. They’re locked in for the night, literally as the house is sealed via electronic locks and steel plates. Trapped in that abandoned, rambling manor with hidden doors, winding hallways, and antique portraits that strongly resemble the little girl weeping upstairs, there is something fast with lots of teeth and a taste for blood also roaming the walls. While it’s a foregone conclusion who dies and who’s responsible, there’s a tiny ballerina dancing to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake (1876), itself an homage to transformative rage, while working out her own abandonment issues on anyone who gets a little too close.

If you’re going to cry about spoilers, remember there’s a little girl on the poster covered in blood in an elaborate tutu with the tagline, “Children can be such monsters.”

Quit your whining already.

I’ve said this before, Universal Pictures is backdooring its Dark Universe Movie Series (originally announced in 2017) by specifically not calling it “Universal Monster Movies”. The Mummy (2017) did so abysmally, Universal quietly licked its wounds and released The Invisible Man (2020), which did well, despite the Pandemic. There were two Universal-helmed Dracula (1931) movies in 2023, Renfield (2023), and The Last Voyage of the Demeter (2023), both films Mark and I (respectively) enjoyed.

Abigail is a re-imagining of the 1936 classic, Dracula’s Daughter. The music of Swan Lake features in the OG Dracula and is the name of his daughter in the sequel, but that’s where a direct lineage ends. There are no Euro-trash vampires in Victorian frockcoats and refined accents. This is a monster movie, and there are scenes of throat tearing, bloodletting, and biting, but not where you’d expect. This isn’t a traditional vampire film, so don’t expect the tried-and-true tropes to work, and that’s what makes Abigail sing (or dance). Most of the damage to our anti-heroes is inflicted upon them by themselves, and how the chosen are dispatched one by one, is pretty glorious. When we finally get to the reveal, it’s all very understandable, but no less terrifying. These are scary people doing shady things with powerful creatures. They have it coming. Probably.

Ultimately what makes Abigail work is the snappy well-paced script by first-time screenwriters Stephen Shields and Guy Busick and directed by Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin. This is a movie with dialogue written by people who have actually held conversations and directed by the folks who gave us Ready or Not (2019), Scream (2022), and Scream VI (2023). This is a quartet that knows how a fun and terrifying film needs to start strong, roll through the valleys of exposition without stalling, and create an explosive finish that leaves you satisfied but wanting more.

Alisha Weir manages to be both a terrified child and a ruthless machine, reminiscent of M3GAN (2022), but with far less “screwball” and much more “deeply disturbed.” She reminds me of Lulu Wilson of Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016),  Annabelle: Creation (2017, and Becky (2020). It’s refreshing to see directors working with child actors to mine the depths of horror films without resorting to screaming and hiding. Kids can be creepy without being corny (looking at you, Children of the Corn (2020).

Come for the vampires, stay for the action, and be reminded that horror films can be smart, provide unexpected scares, and bring new blood (do excuse me) to a sub-genre once drowning in glitter and fake teeth.

Abigail (2024) is rated R for swears, kidnapped and drugged children, drinking, smoking, garroting, stabbing, shooting, chopping, a dungeon full of bodies, and gory explosions.

Abigail is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: MontiLee Stormer
MontiLee Stormer is a writer of horror, dark and urban fantasy. She’s also is a troublemaker, concocting acts of mayhem and despair for her own selfish pleasure. An avid movie watcher, she prefers horror but will see just about anything if you're buying. Poltergeist (1982) is her favorite movie and she actively hates The Shining (1980) due to its racism, misogyny, the butchering of the source material. She could host a TEDtalk on this single subject. Writing about herself in the third person is just a bonus.

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