Horror News

Sting Review – Throwback Creature Feature

Abigail, the latest from directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, feels like a spiritual sibling to their 2019 hit Ready or Not. Both are set almost entirely within a sprawling, warm-toned mansion and both deliver copious blood splatter to a delightfully satisfying degree. But Abigail is an inverse of Ready or Not; instead of one heroine targeted and preyed upon by a group of morally dubious enemies, it’s one vicious threat picking off morally dubious kidnappers one by one, slasher style.

While that may make for a more conventional watch with fewer surprises, Radio Silence’s ballerina vampire movie is a bloody blast all the same.

The heist-turned-vampire feature begins with the coordinated kidnapping of 12-year-old ballerina Abigail (Alisha Weir), the daughter of a powerful crime lord guaranteed to fetch a hefty ransom prize. Splitting the obscene loot are the six tasked with snatching Abigail from her home and safeguarding her for 24 hours: ex-cop Frank (Dan Stevens), medic and Abigail caretaker Joey (Melissa Barrera), endearing himbo muscleman Peter (Kevin Durand), spunky hacker Sammy (Kathryn Newton), wheelman Dean (the late Angus Cloud), and stoic ex-military gunman Rickles (William Catlett). The group of strangers arrive at their luxury hideout with minimal hiccups, where they’re given the rundown by employer Lambert (Giancarlo Esposito) and forced to give up their phones. Once left to their own devices, it quickly becomes clear that their kidnapping stint comes with job hazards they couldn’t have anticipated.

Abigail set visit - vampire horror movie

(from left) Dean (Angus Cloud), Sammy (Kathryn Newton), Abigail (Alisha Weir, back to camera), Peter (Kevin Durand), Frank (Dan Stevens, background), Joey (Melissa Barrera) and Rickles (Will Catlett) in Abigail, directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett.

While the marketing for Abigail may have already revealed the precise threat that this code-named Rat Pack is dealing with, it actually takes a while for the unwitting kidnappers to discover the bloody truth. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett, working from a script by Guy Busick and Stephen Shields, relegate their murderous ballerina to the background for much of the first half to establish the group dynamics and stakes. That’s not a bad thing; Abigail boasts an ensemble cast that makes you want to spend time with them. Early scenes see the six feel each other out, test boundaries, and forge tenuous alliances in acerbically funny ways that make key exposition feel far less tedious than it would in lesser hands. More impressively, this game cast adds depth and pathos to their archetypical roles within the heist and horror.

Barrera’s Joey quickly emerges as the film’s antiheroine for her street smarts and boundless empathy, tasked with the role of the straight man. Joey keeps her cool, as much as possible, even when the horror kicks arrive in full. While Barrera makes easy work of instilling rooting interest and delivering some of the tougher bursts of exposition, she’s often upstaged by Stevens, having a clear blast playing the sleazy but savvy Frank. But Stevens isn’t the only scene-stealer here. Newton, especially through her scene partners, including Cloud, delivers some of the film’s funniest moments with her infectious charisma and witty line delivery. But it’s Durand’s loveable but dumb enforcer that threatens to steal it all, with Peter serving as the butt of many jokes to an unbelievably charming degree. And when Weir finally unleashes her inner monster, her ferocious yet layered portrayal easily establishes the young actor as a star on the rise.

Abigail Melissa Barrera movie

(from left) Abigail (Alisha Weir) and Sammy (Kathryn Newton) in Abigail, directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett.

It’s the cast and their memorable characters that carry Abigail far when the build-up adheres to familiar narrative beats. There’s a sense of awareness of the cinematic vampires that have paved the way, with Abigail acknowledging and borrowing from various aspects of the vampire mythos, but the film never attempts to reinvent the wheel. Instead, Abigail just wants you to have a good time seeing its unlucky criminals in over their heads in increasingly deranged and violent ways. Ultimately, a few unexpected narrative turns herald in one of the goriest finales to come along in quite some time: gorehounds, this one is definitely all for you.

The exquisitely detailed production design by Susie Cullen and a heaping helping of viscera and gore from the SFX team bolster a slick production (in more ways than one) that gives this enthusiastic cast plenty to sink their teeth into. Abigail is savagely inventive in terms of its vampiric gore, offering a thrill ride with sharp, pointy teeth. Though Abigail may be too methodical in its steady ramp-up toward full-blown insanity, the brilliant ensemble makes the journey worth it. With an insane commitment to arterial spray, Abigail winds up another crowd-pleaser from Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett. It’s poised to deliver the most fun you’ll have at the movies this year.

Abigail releases in theaters on April 19, 2024.

3.5 out of 5

Original Source