May 30, 2024 2:46 pm

Abigail
Abigail

Abigail

The trailer for “Abigail” tells you almost everything you need to know about the movie, a wacky high-concept horror thriller about a group of kidnappers who bite off more than they can chew when they unwittingly abduct a child-sized vampire ballerina. The vamp, played with some relish by Alisha Weir, only really comes alive when she’s leering at or stalking her prey. Genre fans will also spot some familiar faces among the movie’s ensemble cast, all of whom do their best with this tic-y, schtick-y material. They curse (enough to seem like they’re overcompensating for some things); they run (around each other, mostly); they get picked off one by one. 

You already know what you’re in for if you’ve come to “Abigail” to watch 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, including Melissa Barrera’s thinly drawn anti-heroine team leader. There’s also plenty of viscous-looking blood splatter and some modestly good-looking vampire makeup—the fangs, in particular. 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 a big part of its ostensible appeal.

I can’t really get or stay mad at “Abigail” for essentially delivering what its marketing promises. Sure, the movie’s creators, led by co-helmers Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (better known as “Radio Silence,” directors of “Ready or Not” and the 2022 “Scream” reboot), could have delivered more, even though disenchanted viewers can’t exactly claim false advertising. The setup is strictly by the numbers and the characters are all stock types.

A team of bickering misfits kidnaps the title character (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 baby-sitting 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, the team has to worry not only about Abigail, but a few 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 really matter once Abigail gets loose from her handcuffs. The house that Abigail’s prey stay in has more personality, but it’s basically the house from “Clue” with some extra goth-y touch-ups. Maybe that’s all you need to enjoy watching a game cast check off every box as they struggle to figure out how to stop a “real” vampire. Nothing worth writing home about comes to mind.

It’s hard to get too excited watching so many talented actors try and barely succeed in making you want to care about their characters, especially since that isn’t the same thing as making you care. More could have been done with less tedious dialogue, as what’s here is designed mostly just to hold the hands of viewers as the plot skips from beat to beat. More could have also been done with Joey, who, at one point, stuffs a loaded gun into her tight jeans’ waistband. I do and I don’t believe it.

“Abigail” may find its audience given a lucky combination of good timing and wishful thinking. It’s not badly made, just uninspired and played out. If you like B-movies made with a budget and are specifically looking for an undemanding time, “Abigail” might be for you. “Abigail” might also disappoint you, especially if you’re hoping for more than what’s advertised.

This review was filed from the Overlook Film Festival. It will be released on April 19th.

The trailer for “Abigail” tells you almost everything you need to know about the movie, a wacky high-concept horror thriller about a group of kidnappers who bite off more than they can chew when they unwittingly abduct a child-sized vampire ballerina. The vamp, played with some relish by Alisha Weir, only really comes alive when she’s leering at or stalking her prey. Genre fans will also spot some familiar faces among the movie’s ensemble cast, all of whom do their best with this tic-y, schtick-y material. They curse (enough to seem like they’re overcompensating for some things); they run (around each other, mostly); they get picked off one by one.  You already know what you’re in for if you’ve come to “Abigail” to watch 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, including Melissa Barrera’s thinly drawn anti-heroine team leader. There’s also plenty of viscous-looking blood splatter and some modestly good-looking vampire makeup—the fangs, in particular. 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 a big part of its ostensible appeal. I can’t really get or stay mad at “Abigail” for essentially delivering what its marketing promises. Sure, the movie’s creators, led by co-helmers Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (better known as “Radio Silence,” directors of “Ready or Not” and the 2022 “Scream” reboot), could have delivered more, even though disenchanted viewers can’t exactly claim false advertising. The setup is strictly by the numbers and the characters are all stock types. A team of bickering misfits kidnaps the title character (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 baby-sitting 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, the team has to worry not only about Abigail, but a few 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 really matter once Abigail gets loose from her handcuffs. The house that Abigail’s prey stay in has more personality, but it’s basically the house from “Clue” with some extra goth-y touch-ups. Maybe that’s all you need to enjoy watching a game cast check off every box as they struggle to figure out how to stop a “real” vampire. Nothing worth writing home about comes to mind. It’s hard to get too excited watching so many talented actors try and barely succeed in making you want to care about their characters, especially since that isn’t the same thing as making you care. More could have been done with less tedious dialogue, as what’s here is designed mostly just to hold the hands of viewers as the plot skips from beat to beat. More could have also been done with Joey, who, at one point, stuffs a loaded gun into her tight jeans’ waistband. I do and I don’t believe it. “Abigail” may find its audience given a lucky combination of good timing and wishful thinking. It’s not badly made, just uninspired and played out. If you like B-movies made with a budget and are specifically looking for an undemanding time, “Abigail” might be for you. “Abigail” might also disappoint you, especially if you’re hoping for more than what’s advertised. This review was filed from the Overlook Film Festival. It will be released on April 19th. Read More