Interview – ‘Abigail’ and ‘Scream VI’ directors explain how they blended ballet with bloody vampire violence

After a group of would-be criminals kidnap the 12-year-old ballerina daughter of a powerful underworld figure, all they have to do to collect a $50 million ransom is watch the girl overnight. In an isolated mansion, the captors start to dwindle, one by one, and they discover, to their mounting horror, that they’re locked inside with no normal little girl.

As the blood-soaked, horror-comedy Abigail bursts on to Australian cinema screens on April 18. Nick L’Barrow had the chance to sit down with the directing duo Radio Silence, AKA Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, about blending horror and comedy, and how the incorporated dance sequences into the action scenes!

Nick: Matt, Tyler – it’s a pleasure to meet you both! How are you going today?

Tyler Gillett: Yeah, really good! Nice to meet you.

Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: Good to meet you!

Nick: I’m genuinely such a big fan of you guys!

Tyler Gillett: Oh, thank you!

Nick: I first found you guys through V/H/S and I’ve loved all your work since! And, Abigail is fucking awesome! And what I love about your work, and Abigail, is that it reminds me that horror can be fun. It doesn’t always have to be doom and gloom. What do you think the recipe to success is when you take two seemingly different genres in comedy and horror, and meld the two together?

Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: We agree, by the way! The horror movies we grew up on are fun and are the ones we loved and gravitated towards. And I think that’s what we’re hoping to do!

For us, it’s really taking these genres, but making sure that it’s character first. And that if you’re on the ride with the character, whether they’re in a heist movie, or they’re in a vampire movie, or both, that you will go through what they go through.

By making those character really good and really universal, and something that everybody can relate to. Something about that walks us through the horror, it walks us through the comedy. It just gives us a playing field, really filled with things to experiment with to get all those genres to feel like one.

Nick: Abigail definitely feels like that! I’m curious from a filmmaking point of view, there’s rhythm to editing, there’s rhythm to directing, but now you’ve added rhythm to the film through dancing. I’m curious to know what the process looked like in adding that extra layer into the action scenes?

Tyler Gillett: It was so fun to have that tool at our disposal. I mean, it was an idea that was ever evolving over the course of the movie, you know? There’s two very specific, sort of, dance – I guess, three dance sequences, and then bits of dance incorporated throughout.

It always felt like a way to make this movie very singular. We talked about that a lot during the chase scenes, during the attacks – how do we design these moments to be something that feels totally bespoke and could only happen in this movie? And the dance element was really a significant part of making this movie have the specific flavour it has.

It was also just amazing to get to work with choreographers, somebody who speaks this language so fluently. And then you have two cast members in Alisha [Weir] and Kathryn [Newton], who are also both just wildly fluent with dance, and I think they unlocked so many things for us creatively making this movie. They’re all surrounding the idea of dance, and it was really fun to get to be a part of that.

Nick: That’s awesome! I’m getting close to the wrap, but I really want to talk about this. I just spoke with Dan [Stevens] about how some inspiration for Frank came from I Think You Should Leave

[laughs]

Nick: “A real piece of shit”!

Tyler Gillett: “That not slicked back, it’s pushed back!”

Nick: I literally watched the skit last night writing this question! But, I’m curious to know whether there’s been any moment in your filmmaking careers where inspiration has come from the most unexpected of places?

Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: Oh, jeez. That’s a great question! Anything come to mind? I feel like we do it, sort of, by accident a lot. We’ll do something and then either when we’re filming it, or something even in post, we’ll go, “Oh, this is because we love whatever movie”. That’s where it comes from. It’s like it reveals itself to us a little bit. But, I can’t think of anything we’ve knowingly baked in.

Tyler Gillett: Except for the straight up Tim Robinson rip off in Abigail! [laughs]

Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: [laughs] Maybe that’s the answer! It’s been right in front of us the whole time!

Nick: I’d love to see what would happen if you passed that baby to Frank!

Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: That baby definitely doesn’t think that Frank can change! We will say that!

Nick: I’m getting the wrap now, but like I said, I love this movie and I am a fan of your filmography. I hope we get to see many more exploding bodies in times to come. I appreciate you both taking the time, and I hope we can do it again soon!

Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: Thank you!

Tyler Gillett: Good to meet you!  Take care!

Thank you so much to Matt and Tyler for their time, and to Universal Pictures for organising the interview. Abigail is in Australian cinemas April 18.

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Nick L'Barrow
Nick L'Barrow
Nick is a Brisbane-based film/TV reviewer. He gained his following starting with his 60 second video reviews of all the latest releases on Instagram (@nicksflicksfix), before launching a monthly podcast with Peter Gray called Monthly Movie Marathon. Nick contributes to Novastream with interviews and reviews for the latest blockbusters.

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