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He said, she said: ‘Abigail’

Garrett Hartman — he — and Ariana Powell — she — review the in-theaters film “Abigail”
Alisha Weir as Abigail in Abigail, directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett. Photo courtesy Bernard Walsh/Universal Pictures/© 2024 Universal Studios

“Abigail,” a horror and thriller film released on April 19, follows a group of kidnappers as they carry-out orders to kidnap the pink ballerina daughter of a powerful criminal. The only catch is … the little girl and her father have some secrets.

He said: 

“Abigail” is a film with an interesting premise that I was really hoping would be good. The set-up of criminals being hired for a job which ends up being a ploy to feed them to a little girl vampire sounds awesome.

With the trailer giving away what would be a good twist, I knew it would be difficult to capitalize on such a cool idea. Just as I feared, the film plays it too safe and doesn’t do its concept justice. It’s a shame since many of the film’s other elements are excellent.

The cast does a great job making their trope-y characters compelling with Alisha Weir, who plays the film’s namesake, bringing an impressive range in her performance. Similarly, the cinematography and style of the film are done expertly. Where the movie falls apart is its writing.

In its opening, “Abigail” spends far too much time dragging out the twist it wears on its sleeve. The film is heavy with exposition, explaining character motivations and backstories which seem to be more of a distraction and excuse to falsely attach the audience to its characters.

This undercuts what could’ve been an interesting examination of morality. If anything, luring criminals with an immoral task to a vampire’s den is as close to ethically sourced vampire chow as you could get.

From left to right, Abigail, Alisha Weir, and Sammy, Kathryn Newton, in “Abigail,” directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett. Photo by Bernard Walsh/Universal Pictures /© 2024 Universal Studios

Instead, the film takes us on a weirdly paced fight for survival that fails to follow its own internal logic. It makes Abigail seem less like a terrifying, sadistic predator and more of a dangerous, but not particularly smart, animal. 

The film depicts Abigail using vampiric strength to toss grown adults around like toys; only to later show her being grappled by those same adults. Kills vary from too abrupt to needlessly drawn out. Where the film could’ve had intense scenes where we observe people being hunted and toyed with, it instead opts to put our characters on the offensive. 

This creates an atmosphere where it never feels like characters are in meaningful danger. The horror scenes seem like they attempt an element of humor, but they never nail down either tone. 

The movie employs interesting depictions of gore, and riffs on vampire lore but overindulges itself to the point it loses its charm. With an eye-rolling-ly lazy and weak ending, the film tries its hardest to squander its best elements. 

Abigail stings with disappointment because I saw the potential for a great and innovative vampire film. This is an even greater insult because of how the actors and visuals excel. If you’re looking for dumb fun, “Abigail” may be worth a watch. With a better script, it’s a premise I would love to see iterated on.

She said:

As mentioned before, if you want to be surprised, do not watch the trailer, period.

It would appear the horror industry is reentering a vampire phase, with “Abigail” being one in a line-up of films such as “Renfield,” released in 2023, and the upcoming remake of the classic 1922 silent horror film “Nosferatu,” set to be released in December.

While we definitely did not need another vampire era after the devastation of the “Twilight” series, “Abigail” takes it in a fun direction.

The film is full of disgustingly explosive moments, decorated with bits of humor and traditional jump scares, but anyone who knows about horror films would recognize it as an amalgamation of horror hints.

From left to right, Dean, Angus Cloud, Sammy, Kathryn Newton, Abigail, Alisha Weir, Peter, Kevin Durand, Frank, Dan Stevens, Joey, Melissa Barrera, and Rickles, Will Catlett, in “Abigail,” directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett. Photo by Bernard Walsh/Universal Pictures/© 2024 Universal Studios

Let’s start with the cast, four of the kidnappers play main characters in popular horror films. Melissa Barrera, who plays Joey, is in “Scream,” 2022, and “Scream VI.”

Actors Kathryn Newton stars in “Freaky,” Kevin Durand in “Tragedy Girls” and Dan Stevens stars in the thriller “The Guest … and the 2017 “Beauty and the Beast” … but that’s beside the point.

The film is also riddled with vampire terminology and myths, — including hints toward the dark prince Dracula himself, garlic, stakes and crosses — which “Abigail” takes to new, if not both disgusting and cringey heights. 

There are some satirical and meta-humor moments where it recognizes itself as just another vampire movie.

And while I cannot prove this, I am fairly certain the character Abigail was modeled after the pink ballerina monster shown in the 2011 horror film “The Cabin in the Woods.” The resemblance between the two is almost uncanny.

“Abigail” seems to take these borrowed horror and vampire elements and grind them into a “Home Alone” meets “Knives Out” narrative, which is quite successful in creating a multi-faceted film.

The premise, revealed in the trailer, is pretty straightforward, but the film adds interesting complications as it explodes through the second act and into the ending.

I also have to applaud the film’s music choice. Obviously, Abigail is a ballerina, and a talented one at that thanks to her years of practice, and so she conducts her killings in a very choreographed and beautiful manner to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.”

Alisha Weir as Abigail in Abigail, directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett. Photo Credit: Bernard Walsh/Universal Pictures/© 2024 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.
(Photo Credit: Bernard Walsh/Univ)

The introduction of the classical music’s complex, rich tone adds dark humor to how Abigail takes her revenge. It also dates her, showing that though in the body of a little girl, she’s as old as the pieces she dances to. 

Underneath the vampire facade the horror film paints on, themes of parenthood, or the lack thereof, hide.

Character Joey tries to hide her son from both her fellow criminals and Abigail, but she later explains her complicated relationship with him, and how she essentially abandoned him to serve herself.

This echoes Abigail’s own demons surrounding having a father who’s never there and doesn’t care for her. Joey and Abigail engage in a complicated dance of forgone trust, shame, fear, resentment and eventually understanding.

The main takeaway: don’t abandon your children, or you might end up dead … or undead.

“Abigail” is still in theaters.

Garrett Hartman and Ariana Powell can be reached at [email protected].

Ariana Powell can also be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Ariana Powell
Ariana Powell, Editor-in-Chief
Ariana Powell is in her fourth year at Chico State as a media arts (criticism) and journalism (news) double-major. Now in her fourth semester on The Orion and having assumed the editor-in-chief position, she is prepared to continue helping upcoming journalists and endeavors to continue building her repertoire of multimedia and writing skills. In her free time, she enjoys writing, watching and analyzing films, reading and spending time with her loved ones.

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