Review – Abigail

It’s fair to assume that the graceful, prestigious art from known as ballet, and gratuitous blood and gore, are probably two things you’d never find sharing an elevator together, let alone share a movie together.

But, when you get the horror-comedy geniuses from Radio Silence (filmmakers Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett), who helmed the most recent iterations of the Screamfranchise and the criminally underrated Ready or Not, you get the impossible in this new blood soaked take on the vampire flick, Abigail. And as it turns out, it makes for a damn fun time at the cinemas.

The titular Abigail is played by Alisha Weir (Matilda: The Musical), a 12-year-old ballerina whose father has some deep, mafioso-type, criminal ties. So much so that an eccentric and eclectic group of criminals, all unknown to each other, are hired to kidnap Abigail and hold her for ransom in a Victorian era manor run by Lambert (Giancarlo Esposito) (first red flag!), who advises the crew that they must stay in the manor for 24 hours for the heat on them to die down.

Keeping their identities secret and being gifted the nicknames of the vintage Hollywood Rat Pack, this ensemble of ragtag crims includes the mysterious yet incredibly intelligent Joey (Melissa Barrera), foul-mouthed crooked cop Frank (Dan Stevens), punk-rock aesthetic hacker Sammy (Kathryn Newton), French-Canadian muscle man Peter (Kevin Durand), US Marine medic Rickles (William Catlett), and inquisitive wheelman Dean (the late Angus Cloud).

Despite all being in on the same lucratively paying job, personalities clash and tensions rise between the group, as the walls of this creepy and elaborate manor begin to close in. However, their night has only just began after the discovery that the sweet, young, innocent ballerina tied up in the bedroom, is in fact a blood-thirsty vampire ready for the hunt.

And boy, does Abigail relish in its bloodthirst, something that of recent years has become a staple of Radio Silence’s filmmaking. Even with elements of the violence being effective in making the audience cringe and squirm, the dedication to the insanity and ridiculousness of some of the kills in this film make it feel firstly relevant to the story, and but secondly, not disgustingly gratuitous in ways other films in this genre can lean.

Vampire bites, slashing necks, exploding bodies and broken limbs are all on the menu, but the heightened nature of this ridiculous story, along with a strong dash of dark humour, puts Abigail in the camp of horror films that a truly a blast to enjoy. This isn’t a horror film that you will walk out of feeling all the doom and gloom of the world because it’s truly committed to being a fun time, that just happens to feature all of the gory violence horror fans love.

Once Abigail’s terrifying torment begins, the action continually ramps up the intensity from scene to scene, showcasing some astounding choreography from the fight co-ordinators. However, what set’s these set pieces apart is the integration of Abigail’s ballet abilities, with two fantastically executed moments involving dance and death. This unique approach to horror violence is another great example of Radio Silence building on the incredible set pieces they’ve already show audiences in their previous films.

That dark comedy trickles through the film, not just through its bat-shit insanity, but the amazing ensemble cast, led by such a sassy, fierce performance (both physically and personality wise) from Alisha Weir, who steals every moment she’s on screen as the vampire. Often, her quick witted, harsh insults dig deeper under the skin of characters more than her fangs. And utilising her background in dance adds another layer of entertainment to those ballet-based action scenes.

Melissa Barrera gives another solid performance in her filmography, grounding a lot of the emotion in the film in the reuniting with the Radio Silence team post-Scream. The complexities of Joey add enough emotional substance to the story to be invested, but it is never in sacrifice of once again seeing Barrera launch herself into bad-ass heroine mode, lending her ability to brutally defend herself from murderous beings (as seen previously in the Scream franchise).

Often, scenes are stolen by Kathryn Newton, Dan Stevens and Kevin Durand, all of whom have outlandish characters the relish and chew up the scenery, bringing the sense of levity and fun to the film. The wicked banter between the crew and pulling off some hilarious one-liners during all the insanity, lands very well.

Abigail is a perfect reminder that horror films, no matter how blood splattered they may be, can be an immense amount of fun. And if the filmmaking team behind Radio Silence keep moving forward on this trajectory, it will shock no one when they’re movies are beloved and referenced by horror fans for decades to come.

Abigail is in 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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It’s fair to assume that the graceful, prestigious art from known as ballet, and gratuitous blood and gore, are probably two things you’d never find sharing an elevator together, let alone share a movie together. But, when you get the horror-comedy geniuses from Radio Silence...Review - Abigail