Abigail is a Bloody Good Time

She’s a ballerina vampire!

Alisha Weir as Abigail in Abigail, directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett.
Universal Studios
Inverse Reviews

Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, the directing duo otherwise known as Radio Silence, are intensely aware of the audience they’re serving: one that knows the horror genre inside and out. So, as with their absurdly fun breakout hit Ready or Not, the duo’s riotously bloody vampire flick Abigail plays directly to that audience.

Based on the 1936 classic Dracula's Daughter, Abigail is a reimagining of the Universal Classic Monsters film in the loosest sense of the word. The only thing it has in common with Lambert Hillyer’s Dracula sequel is the idea that Count Dracula has a daughter. Gne are the 1936 film’s vague lesbian overtones, in its place is a gleefully campy child-monster who feels like M3GAN got a bloodsucking makeover. But therein lies the fun of Abigail: watching a tiny girl in a delicate ballet costume rip to shreds a group of colorful characters who are very aware of what a vampire is but woefully underprepared to deal with one.

The crew checks out their (haunted) digs.

Universal Studios

Abigail kicks off with a show for no one. The titular ballet dancer (a terrifically unhinged Alisha Weir) performs for an empty theater as a crew of criminals ready themselves to kidnap her for ransom. Led by the mercurial Frank (Dan Stevens), the group also includes the turmoiled former medic Joey (Melissa Barrera), sniper Rickles (Will Catlett), teen hacker Sammy (Kathryn Newton), the muscle Peter (Kevin Durand), and driver Dean (Angus Cloud, in his final film role). Their leader, and the mastermind behind the kidnapping is Lambert (Giancarlo Esposito).

After smoothly snatching Abigail from her luxe bedroom, the team make their getaway to a hideout, a crumbling, dilapidated mansion in the middle of nowhere. Lambert instructs them to hold Abigail there for 24 hours, after which he’ll return with the ransom from her father… a ransom that never comes. The whole thing, the group soon learns, is a trap orchestrated by Abigail herself, who is actually a centuries-old vampire who handpicked the group to be her next victims.

Melissa Barrera and Dan Stevens are standouts in Abigail.

Universal Studios

The great fun of Abigail is that it unfolds much like an Agatha Christie whodunit, introducing its characters not unlike how Poirot would run down the list of suspects in a murder. Stuck in the drafty mansion with nothing but a stocked bar and themselves for company, the group plays a game: Joey correctly guesses each of their backstories — Frank is a former cop, Sammy is a bored rich kid, etc. Joey, however, is the one afforded the richest backstory. She’s a former drug addict doing this job so that she can work up the courage (and money) to see her young son again. It’s her estranged relationship with her child that lets Joey strike up an immediate connection with Abigail, a connection that manages to hold firm even when Abigail reveals her true nature and goes on a bloodsucking rampage.

But though Abigail manages to land some sincere emotional moments, and even lends its monster a little depth (who knew that Dracula’s daughter had daddy issues), that’s not what this movie is about. This movie is about blood, gore, and heads rolling — and trust me, several heads roll. Abigail manages to keep the stakes heightened and blood rushing even if you can predict the turns. The creepy, labyrinthine house that the film takes place does a lot of the work: it’s a creepy, macabre gothic mansion which holds way more rooms and dark corridors (and inexplicably, a swimming pool full of dead bodies) than one might expect, along with an eerie statue of Abigail and daddy dearest. And the practical effects that Radio Silence employs are impressively gory. There is no shortage of blood splattering or viscera flying, and that aforementioned swimming pool of bodies gives us one of the grossest, most horrifying moments of the year. If you thought that Radio Silence liked their exploding bodies a lot in Ready or Not, be prepared for the finale of Abigail, which fills the air with so much blood and viscera you can barely make anything out.

True to the title, Abigail is Alisha Weir’s movie.

Universal Studios

None of it would work without the wildly acrobatic performance by Alisha Weir. The rest of the cast is solid at coloring in the gaps of their relatively simplistic characters, with Stevens in particular giving a deliciously deranged performance in a late-act twist, but the movie lives or dies by its Abigail. Weir is Kirsten Dunst’s Claudia in Interview with the Vampire by way of Linda Blair’s Regan — she’s a regular bat out of hell, a cackling little psychopath who loves to play with her food and literally dance her victims to death. No wonder the movie chose such a vague title as Abigail. Weir is destined to be one of the great child horror performances, and the movie is right to highlight her.

Abigail is a movie made for horror devotees who just want a relaxing Friday night filled with blood splatter and cartoonishly brutal kills. And while Abigail has plenty of those, it also has a certain degree of self-awareness that makes its somewhat ridiculous premise unquestionably delightful.

Abigail is playing in theaters now.

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