The HoloFiles

REVIEW: Abigail

By George & Josh Bate

Movie trailers and marketing have a difficult task. How do you attract viewers to a film without spoiling everything about it? How do you frame a movie to a prospective audience that intrigues, but doesn’t entirely give away, what makes the movie fascinating? Trailers for Radio Silence’s new horror film Abigail intrigued, showing off the film’s stellar cast and boasting some neat visuals. But they also made a fatal error in giving away the film’s key twist. Now, it’s questionable whether it’s fair to judge a film in the context of its promotional material. But, given such promotional material is meant to be viewed as a means to attract viewers, assuming the audience has seen trailers for Abigail before heading into the film is reasonable. And, given the revealing nature of such trailers, Abigail stumbles and falls short of greatness.

Very loosely inspired by the 1936 Universal Classic Monsters film Dracula’s Daughter, Abigail follows a team of criminals who launch a plan to kidnap a young girl and hold her for ransom. Hiding out in a secluded mansion, the team soon find out the person they kidnapped isn’t just a regular girl – she’s actually a vampire. The six criminals now must fight for their lives, locked inside a mansion with a relentless monster.

Promotional material for Abigail understandably revealed that the movie is a vampire film, but it’s hard not to ponder how much more effective Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett’s film would’ve been had its vampire element been kept under wraps. Abigail begins as a tense thriller, following six criminals, each with a unique skill set, attempt the daring task of kidnapping the daughter of a powerful underworld figure. Unfortunately, knowing that the daughter in question is actually a vampire deprives the film of much shock factor as the audience, but not the main characters, are aware of what’s about to transpire. 

Although Abigail’s predictability ultimately detracts from its effectiveness as a thriller, the film sports a number of commendable elements. The aforementioned beginning of the film unfolds excitingly and lays a solid foundation for the movie to follow. After kidnapping the girl, the mismatched group of criminals arrive at a large mansion, greetied by Giancarlo Esposito’s Lambert character. Lambert informs the team that they are to remain in the mansion for 24 hours and will each receive $7 million if the kidnapped girl Abigail is unharmed. With this set-up, the film nicely transitions into a contained horror piece (not unlike Radio Silence’s Ready or Not, which was also set in a similar house). The six criminals start to relax and wait for the 24 hours to lapse, completely ignorant of the threat contained inside the home with them.

The team consists of six criminals, each of whom have aliases derived from members of the Rat Pack. And, with this team, Radio Silence assembled quite the ensemble. Playing the lead in her third film from Radio Silence in a row, Melissa Barrera stars as Joey, a perceptive criminal with a mysterious background. Leading Joey and the rest of the pack is the cold and professional Frank, played by Dan Stevens (Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, The Guest). He’s accompanied by the perpetually endearing Kevin Durand, who once again finds himself up against a vampire just like he did in the FX series The Strain, and Sammy, played by Freaky’s Kathryn Newton. Rounding out the crew are Black Lightning’s Will Catlett as Rickles and the late Angus Cloud as Dean. The six members of this ensemble work really well together on screen as they portray six criminals who don’t always work that well together. Each is afforded just enough backstory to make them interesting and are actualized by six distinct performances. Any film that sees a group of criminals team up inevitably features conflict among its members, and there’s plenty of that in Abigail. The butting of heads of various incompatible personalities makes for entertaining viewing, especially when the crew must reluctantly team up to fight the titular vampire.

And, amongst an impressive ensemble, it’s the actress playing this vampire that produces the film’s most memorable performance. Irish actress Alisha Weir, known for her role as Matilda in Matilda the Musical, plays the subject of the entire film. Given the nature of her character being both a young girl and a deadly vampire, Weir believably portrays both of these polar opposite sides. As the young girl kidnapped at the star, Weir plays Abigail as an innocent victim of a horrible crime. But, as the vampire she really is, Weir plays Abigail with an unexpected maturity and menace that make the character a captivating villain.

After a solid first half that takes its time setting everything up, Abigail turns into a bloody extravaganza once the team realizes they are dealing with a vampire. Directors Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett have demonstrated a firm handling of horror violence and definitely don’t shy away from blood and guts in their latest effort. The blood becomes so excessive that it’s comical, which, coupled with a humorous performance from Dan Stevens, makes Abigail more of a horror comedy rather than just a horror film. With such humor, however, Abigail somewhat sacrifices tension and suspense. In leaning more into its comedic sensibilities, the film lacks a certain intensity that one would think a movie about a group of people stuck in a mansion with a vampire would contain.

With a runtime that overstays its welcome by about 10-15 minutes, Abigail wraps up with a conclusion full of reveals and, yes, more blood. These reveals nicely make sure that the film doesn’t devolve into convoluted territory and ties up all of the story’s loose ends. The one exception to this is a character who undergoes quite a transformation in the final few scenes and whose actions at the end feel incompatible with the character portrayed beforehand.

Similarly struggling to find its footing is the film’s ending note. As a loose adaptation of Dracula’s Daughter and with Abigail’s powerful father frequently spoken of, Dracula looms over the entire film. Unfortunately, the culmination of this anticipation underwhelms and, in turn, concludes the film on a rather flat note. 

VERDICT: 7/10

A movie that would have benefitted from keeping its vampire twist a secret, Abigail triumphs as an engaging, blood-soaked horror comedy. Coming off of a duo of Scream films, Radio Silence borrow plot elements from the Universal Classic Monsters film Dracula’s Daughter to craft a movie with a thrilling first half and atmospheric contained setting. An ensemble in which all six members are given unique personalities and moments to shine impresses, with the comedic Dan Stevens and Kevin Durand as particular highlights. The titular vampire, meanwhile, is brought to life by an extraordinarily versatile performance by young actress Alisha Weir. After losing some of its intensity in exchange for blood, guts, and laughs, Abigail solidly concludes, although its handling of the looming Dracula character leaves a lot to be desired. Abigail raises a number of interesting questions about whether films should be evaluated in the context of their promotional material. If they are not and Abigail is seen with no prior knowledge of its plot, then the resultant film is enthralling and sports a killer twist. However, if films are to be evaluated in the context of their promotional material, then Abigail falls short of excellence as an entertaining, albeit predictable, horror outing.

The HoloFiles

The HoloFiles is a website and series of social media accounts, including Star Wars Holocron, Marvel Tesseract, DC Motherbox, Film Codex, and Horror Necronomicon. We love cinema and television, and aim to spread positivity across different fandoms. Come to us for news, reviews, interviews, trivia facts, quotes, behind the scenes photos, analytic features, and more!