Abigail (2024)

Abigail Review


Release date: April 19, 2024 (USA)
Directors: Tyler Gillett, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Box office: $40 million
Cinematography: Aaron Morton
Edited by: Michael P. Shawver

The preview for “Abigail” gives away almost everything about the movie, which is a crazy high-concept horror thriller about a gang of kidnappers who unknowingly snatch a child-sized vampire ballerina (Alisha Weir). She only really comes alive when she’s leering at or stalking her prey. Genre fans will recognize some familiar faces among the ensemble cast of this tic-y, schtick-y material, curse (enough to seem like they’re overcompensating for some things), run (around each other, mostly) and get picked off one by one.

You know exactly what you’re getting with “Abigail” if you came for a body count caper featuring plummy character actor performances from That Guys like Kevin Durand and Dan Stevens. Most of their co-stars keep up in less attractive roles; Melissa Barrera’s thinly drawn anti-heroine team leader does not rank among them. There’s also plenty of viscous-looking blood splatter and some decently good-looking vampire makeup the fangs are particularly good. Some action scenes are well-choreographed but generally over-edited and shot just ahead of whatever’s moving on-screen. The rest of this 90-minute genre exercise is unfailingly conventional, though that’s also most of its apparent appeal.

I cannot be mad at “Abigail” for giving me what I paid for. Sure, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (“Radio Silence,” directors of “Ready or Not” and the 2022 “Scream” reboot) could have given us more to work with here as much as disenchanted viewers cannot claim false advertising. The setup is strictly by-the-numbers and the characters are all stock types.

A bickering misfit crew kidnaps Abigail (Weir). They follow her home with a comically oversized gizmo stuck to the bottom of her chauffeur’s car. Then they bring the 12-year-old-looking girl to a secluded mansion, where they’re reminded of their mission’s stakes. Shady but well-dressed ring-leader Lambert (Giancarlo Esposito) gives us and them the rundown: no real names, no cell phones, nothing personal it’s 24 hours of babysitting a pre-teen who really likes to plié and step-toe her way through “Swan Lake” rehearsals. Simple is as simple does.

We learn very little about everyone, thanks in no small part to a scene where Lambert nicknames the characters after members of the Rat Pack. Durand’s character, a jolly-but-dim muscle-bro named Peter, tries to find the sense in being nicknamed after rats. Later, he gets that it’s a disposable pop culture reference and promptly moves on.

Peter’s the most sympathetic character in “Abigail,” partly because he’s constantly straining against the limits of what his character can know and do. He’s joined by a call sheet of tropes, including Abigail’s minder the empathetic and observant Joey (Melissa Barrera); their irritating and wasted driver Dean (the late “Euphoria” star Angus Cloud); and the strong-silent ex-soldier Rickles (William Catlett). Eventually, though not soon enough for laughs or thrills, they have to worry about Abigail more than themselves along with predictable liabilities like their bratty and easily bored electronics hacker Sammy (Kathryn Newton) and their foul-mouthed inexplicably accented ex-cop backup leader Frank (Stevens).

None of these party game light character traits matter once Abigail breaks the handcuffs. The house where Abigail’s victims stay has more personality, but it’s basically the “Clue” house with some extra goth-y touch-ups. Maybe that’s all you need to have fun seeing a bunch of cast check off every box as they try to figure out how to stop a “real” vampire. Nothing comes to mind worth writing home about.

It’s tough to get excited about so many talented actors trying and mostly failing to make you care about their characters when that isn’t quite the same thing as making you care. More could have been done with less tedious dialogue, which here is mostly designed just to hold viewers’ hands as the plot jumps from beat to beat. More also could have been done with Joey, who at one point stuffs a loaded gun into her tight jeans’ waistband. I do and don’t buy it.

Abigail” might find its audience through a lucky combination of good timing and wishful thinking. It’s not poorly made; it’s just uninteresting and predictable. If you like B-movies made with a budget and are in the market for an undemanding time, “Abigail” may be your speed. “Abigail” also might let you down if you’re looking for something more than what was advertised

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