‘Abigail’ Review: Bloodlust and Brilliance

A Rare Horror Comedy that’s as spine-chilling as it is side-splitting!

Criminals kidnapping a wealthy man’s child and demanding a hefty ransom is a plot centuries old. So forgive us for approaching this story with some apprehension. However, the directing team of Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, better known as Radio Silence, have delivered a wonderfully funny yet terrifying bloodbath of a movie in Abigail.

Universal has struggled in recent years with their plans to launch their ‘Dark Universe,’ a planned series of monster franchises, such as The Mummy and The Wolfman. However, after a poor reception, the brakes were firmly applied. Last year the studio’s Renfield, which starred Nicholas Hoult as a sidekick to Nicolas Cage’s campy Dracula, was a hammy attempt at bringing this classic story back to life. Audiences responded accordingly, and it bombed on its opening weekend.

Image Credit: Universal Pictures

12 months later, Universal is back in the vampire genre, and we’re happy to say they got this one right. Abigail strikes a superb balance of humor, gore, and scares, making it an utter bloodbath to boot. Watching Alisha Weir’s 12-year-old Abigail go from the sweetest, most innocent thing to the most terrifying child you’ve seen since The Ring’s Samara crawled out of the TV and straight into your nightmares is truly commendable.

Abigail begins with the immediate kidnapping of the 12-year-old ballerina. Giancarlo Esposito’s Lambert assembles a diverse group of Rat Pack criminals on behalf of an unseen, menacing crime boss. Their mission: to snatch Abigail and demand a $50 million ransom from her affluent father. The task unfolds smoothly as they infiltrate the family mansion and whisk her away to a desolate, gothic house, while awaiting payment, they soon discover that this is no ordinary assignment. Abigail innocently utters, “I am so sorry for what is about to happen to you,” to the clueless Joey (Melissa Barrera.)

Image Credit: Universal Pictures

The group of oddball criminals, unknow to each other, secure Abigail in a bedroom, offering a moment for us to delve deeper into their characters. As Melissa Barrera’s Joey takes on the role of Sherlock Holmes, describing their personality traits for cash. We have the utterly intense Frank (Dan Stevens), the dim-witted Peter (Kevin Durand), the runaway teenager Sammy (Kathryn Newton), the wheelman Dean (the late Angus Cloud), and the soldier Rickles (William Catlett).

‘Abigail’ is breathlessly paced, offering a total thrill ride from start to finish.

Abigail is breathlessly paced, offering a total thrill ride from start to finish. It expertly juxtaposes moments of comedic brilliance with its jump scares. One second, the audience is laughing out loud, and the next, they’re jumping out of their seats. Striking that balance alongside some outright chaotic moments, from Abigail dancing a pas de deux with a headless corpse to the sheer amount of bloodshed, is incredibly hard to do. It’s a testament to the fantastic writing of Stephen Shields and Guy Busick.

Image Credit: Universal Pictures

While the film is expertly put together by all involved, the linchpin of the movie is undeniably the young Alisha Weir. Her performance in the titular role is truly mesmerizing. It’s quite a burden for such a young actress, but she rises to the occasion brilliantly. Weir’s performance tops the list, seamlessly transitioning from the innocent child to a demented vampire who likes to “play with her food.” She is superb in every sense of the word.

The performances all around are solid. Barrera plays it straight; her character is seemingly the only one with any common sense, and that plays into her performance—it’s very ‘safe’. Stevens, without a shadow of a doubt, exudes leading man qualities. Durand’s goofy character affords him some of the best lines, and you can tell that Newton is having a blast; her character and performance are full of fun. Last but not least, Cloud was really beginning to showcase his talents; it’s a real tragedy that he’s gone way too soon. The film is dedicated to him.

In an age of endless sequels, reboots, and recycled plots, Abigail deserves the benefit of the doubt. Yes, it’s a plot we’ve seen before, but it’s undeniably entertaining and downright bloody good fun.

Abigail is now playing in theaters worldwide

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