Combustible Celluloid Review - Abigail (2024), Stephen Shields, Guy Busick, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett, Melissa Barrera, Dan Stevens, Kathryn Newton, William Catlett, Kevin Durand, Angus Cloud, Alisha Weir, Giancarlo Esposito, Matthew Goode
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With: Melissa Barrera, Dan Stevens, Kathryn Newton, William Catlett, Kevin Durand, Angus Cloud, Alisha Weir, Giancarlo Esposito, Matthew Goode
Written by: Stephen Shields, Guy Busick
Directed by: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence and gore throughout, pervasive language and brief drug use
Running Time: 109
Date: 04/19/2024

Abigail (2024)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Bal-Slay Dances

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Employing a simple setup with a few clever twists, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett's gory, slick vampire movie Abigail adds in horror and humor in a most appealing manner, moving with ease and confidence almost the entire way.

A team of criminals — code-named Joey (Melissa Barrera), Frank (Dan Stevens), Sammy (Kathryn Newton), Peter (Kevin Durand), Rickles (William Catlett), and Dean (Angus Cloud) — are hired for a kidnapping. Their target is Abigail (Alisha Weir), the young, ballet-loving daughter of a rich and powerful man.

The team pulls off its assignment easily and heads to a remote house, where they are met by Lambert (Giancarlo Esposito). Their instructions are simple. They are to keep an eye on Abigail, wait for 24 hours, and do not disclose any personal information to one another. They are left with food and a fully-stocked bar, and they begin to pass the night. But there's something they don't know about Abigail...

With Abigail, the co-directors Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett, of the collective known as Radio Silence, add another winner to their distinctive filmography. It recalls elements of their earlier movies Ready or Not, set in a large, opulent mansion, and Scream VI, with its bloody showdown in a large, beautiful theater, but this time with supernatural elements, and a gleeful excess of gore.

The filmmakers establish a tone that incorporates humor, without distracting from the true horror of the situation. It doesn't undercut or betray anything; the elements are melded together gracefully. There's time to build characters, or at least enough that we know how we feel about them. And everything is clear and fluid; there's never any junky camerawork or cheap short cuts. It's entertaining throughout, except for a few small quibbles.

In the final act, there's an overcooked element — best not revealed — that detracts from the quality of the story. And then there's the Abigail character, who is at least a couple of centuries old, and spending all that time in the body of a small girl. In movies like Near Dark and Interview with the Vampire, we meet characters who suffer gravely from a curse like that, being an experienced person in an inexperienced body, but Abigail never addresses this concept. Nonetheless, there's enough here to make this nail-and-neck-biter well worth recommending.

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