Abigail Review: Radio Silence’s Bloodsoaked Horror-Comedy Goes For The Throat With A Smile

While arguably still one of the most dependable film genres, horror seems to be having a moment. Two of the people that are perched at the forefront of that moment are directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett. Much like their contemporary and fellow V/H/S colleague Adam Wingard, these enterprising creatives have journeyed from indie horror hits to blockbuster success, with Abigail representing one of their most mainstream efforts yet. 



(Image credit: Universal)

Release Date: April 19, 2024
Directed By: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett
Written By: Stephen Shields and Guy Busick
Starring: Melissa Barrera, Dan Stevens, Alisha Weir, Kathryn Newton, William Catlett, Kevin Durand, Angus Cloud and Giancarlo Esposito
Rating: Rated R for strong bloody violence and gore throughout, pervasive language and brief drug use
Runtime: 110 minutes

Much like their latest project’s titular antagonist, there’s much more going on that what you may see on the surface. The basic setup for Abigail is deceptively simple, as our special little ballerina vampire (Alisha Weir) makes life a living hell for a group of criminals who have kidnapped her for a sizable ransom. While playing out that plot, them movie goes beyond what one would expect, delivering some serious surprises.

Writers Stephen Shields and Guy Busick not only show off their knowledge of vampire lore but also audience expectations – adding a series of story turns that gradually change the game. All the while, movie-goers are invited to enjoy a good old fashioned horror-comedy that knows when to make you laugh, when to make you scream scream, and when to just let you breathe.

Abigail is a horror-comedy thrill ride that provides more delight than advertised.

Abigail thrives on its surprises for anyone curious to experience its charms. The trailers promise a horror comedy, but you’re also getting a mystery thriller and a family drama mixed in as well.

All of those angles are reflected in the cast of characters we’re invited to follow throughout the bloodbath. These complete strangers – played by Melissa Barrera, Dan Stevens, Alisha Weir, Kathryn Newton, William Catlett, Kevin Durand, and Angus Cloud – are trying to figure each other out while also attempting to outsmart Abigail, and both contribute greatly to the entertainment. 

Vampire fans should be ready to see some of their favorite movies reflected in Abigail, as there are some sly references and tip of the fangs to the classics. It never gets tired or cliched – hitting a high when the characters find themselves engaging in the expected round of parsing out vampire lore to see what works and what doesn’t in fighting the bloodsucking undead. Nods to True Blood, Twilight, and Anne Rice are thrown in, and the name checks demonstrate wonderful knowledge of the monster’s cinematic legacy.

Great credit goes to Director of Photography Aaron Morton and Production Designer Susie Cullen, two of the key filmmakers whose work ratchets up the tension in Abigail. Between Cullen’s designs in the spooky house where the characters are trapped and Morton’s cinematography, the movie maximizes the fun and scares that almost entirely unfold in a single location. 

With the picture really playing into the feel of a living breathing board game, the small ensemble cast present is given ample opportunity to shine – even when they are absolutely drenched in gallons of blood and gore.

Alisha Weir more than holds her own amidst a cast of genre acting ringers.

Walking out of Abigail, I couldn’t stop praising the centerpiece performance of young actor Alisha Weir. As written, the titular vampire is delightfully memorable modern horror antagonist. Playing a master manipulator, a sass factory, and a physically imposing opponent all in one, Weir doesn’t miss a step when shifting between the multitudes of this fanged feature player. 

Weir is certainly no stranger to praise, as she previously played the acclaimed lead in Netflix’s Matilda The Musical adaptation. Abigail is another strong addition to her resume, as she isn’t simply a precocious menace that rides the coattails of “creepy children” tropes that we’ve seen too many times before. She’s actually believable as a menacing presence going toe-to-toe with her adult co-stars. This is definitely saying something given that the grown-up cast of this fright night more than holds up their end of the bargain. 

Since Abigail focuses on a relatively small cast, any potential weaknesses in the line-up would be easy to spot. Everyone’s in top form though, with Barrera acting as the most humane member of this group of strangers who are given Reservoir Dogs-style code names straight from the Rat Pack. (Stephen Shields and Guy Busick have to get a bit creative when it comes to naming a six person team after a legendary group that has only five members, but the movie makes it work.)

Abigail is notably the second film this year that’s continued the trend of filmmakers with an indie pedigree getting weird with Dan Stevens – the previous title being Adam Wingard’s Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire. Even if Abigail wasn’t as fun as it ultimately turns out to be, I would support the continuation of that effort with all of my being – but after seeing yet another match made in heaven between Stevens and directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, my expectations and hopes for the actor’s future are exceptionally high.

You don’t need to be a horror fan to dig into Abigail, but you’ll be so much more entertained if you are.

There is so much to like about Abigail, it’s almost scary. Following Ready Or Not, Scream and Scream V, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett continue to develop winning concepts, and execute clever casting and slick directorial chops – adding another victory on their resume. With several different genres and tones successfully at work, Abigail is a title that could appeal to fans of pretty much any type of movie, as there’s something for everyone in this expertly planned maze. 

Of course, horror is the home in which this picture’s heart truly dwells – in case the excessive amounts of blood in the trailers didn’t already give that away. Rather than just provide a crowd pleaser that’s horror adjacent, Bettinelli-Olpin and GIllett double down on the gore and give genre-lovers what they’re looking for. Full of hidden delights, and a cheekiness that matches its mean streak, Abigail should surprise even the most hardcore movie-goers who think they know what to expect.  

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