Abigail (2024) Movie Review: It seems as though it would be a hard life for a vampire child,  especially one whose father is Count Dracula. In addition to a lack of warmth and paternal affection and a constant surrounding by violence, there is the pressure of living up to a centuries-old reputation. When your parent is one of the greatest of all time, and you have been forced into the same line of work, how do you not judge your actions against your parent’s success?

The idea of Count Dracula having offspring was first introduced in the 1936 film aptly titled “Dracula’s Daughter.” Universal Studios released it as a direct sequel to  the Bela Lugosi-starring “Dracula,” with a great deal of inspiration taken from Sheridan Le  Fanu’s “Carmilla.” The movie features Gloria Holden as the mysterious and tortured daughter of the infamous Count, who turns to a psychiatrist in an attempt to cure her vampiric urges.

The recently released movie “Abigail” is not a remake of “Dracula’s Daughter” but plays in the same sandbox of ideas, chief among them being the emotional toll of being the nepo baby of a Dracula-like figure. “Abigail” comes from the filmmaking duo of Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and  Tyler Gillett, better known as Radio Silence. Radio Silence began their directing career with a  section in the horror anthology “V/H/S” before achieving mainstream success with 2019’s  “Ready or Not.” They went on to helm the “Scream” Franchise, directing the legacy sequels  “Scream” and “Scream VI.” These horror movies are all characterized by a macabre sense of  humor, cartoonish violence, and crowd-pleasing thrills, a tone that is also present in “Abigail.”

A significant problem with “Abigail” is found in the marketing. The hook of the trailer is  Abigail’s vampirism, whereas in the actual movie, that is played as a fun end-of-Act-One surprise, a jolt that makes the audience reconsider exactly what movie they are watching. The  beginning of “Abigail” is a crime noir like “Reservoir Dogs.” To the strains of Tchaikovsky’s  “Swan Lake” (the same piece of music that opened 1931’s “Dracula.”), we are introduced to a six-person crew that has been hired to kidnap 12-year-old ballerina Abigail (Alisha Weir) and hold her for 24 hours in a remote mansion for a 50 million dollar ransom against her billionaire father.

No names are allowed. Instead, the crew are given nicknames derived from “The Rat Pack.”  “Joey” (Melissa Barrera) is the babysitter, a tough facade hiding a soft underside; “Frank” (Dan  Stevens) is the leader, a weasely former cop; “Sammy” (Kathryn Newton) is the hacker, a rebellious rich girl; “Peter” (Kevin Durand) is the muscle, a Quebeçois gentle giant; “Rickles”  (William Catlett)is the look-out, a stoic military man; “Dean” (Angus Cloud) is the getaway driver, a sociopath. All the characters are archetypes, sketched in bright strokes, though revealed with excellent efficiency and humor. We are dealing with simple genre storytelling here.

Abigail (2024) Movie Review
A still from Abigail (2024)

The mansion is much like the one found in “Ready or Not,” full of brown wood, cobwebs, secret passageways, and lit by gaslight. The crew settles in, finding a bedroom in which to tie up  Abigail and a room with a pool table and booze. While the others relax, banter back and forth, and wait for a 7 million dollar payday, Joey checks in on Abigail. The two women form a  tentative, soft connection before the 12-year-old’s frightened exterior drops, and she tells Joey, “I’m sorry for what’s about to happen.” At this time, it is also discovered that her father is Kristof Lazar, a shadowy crime boss whose enemies tend to end up gruesomely torn to shreds. Or so the urban legends say.

These revelations send the crew down a rabbit hole of paranoia. Frank surmises they are being set up. All of them are too eager to keep their identities a secret to not have a number of skeletons in their closet. They agree to cut their losses, but they try to leave bars mechanically shut over the doors and windows, effectively trapping all of them inside. Now is the moment in the movie when Abigail is revealed to be a vicious, bloodthirsty vampire intent on hunting down the crew.

As the characters race through the mansion’s winding corridors and attempt to defend themselves against Abigail, they still find the time to toss off sarcastic quips. The script’s tone is flippant and cheeky but never falls into the “Well, that just happened” territory that shows a disinterest in its own premise. The actors are all committed and playful, leaning into the joke without breaking the reality of the movie. Barrera shows real screen presence as the thoughtful final girl, Joey,  raising her from a two-dimensional caricature with a Sigourney Weaver-like combination of depth of feeling and gritty physicality.

A brief reference by the filmmakers to Agatha Christie’s novel “And Then There Were None,”  one of the progenitors of the slasher horror subgenre and also about a group dying one by one at an isolated mansion, is pointed and revealing. With its rollercoaster pacing, elaborate kill set pieces, and thinly drawn characters, “Abigail” is a slasher. While Anne Rice and Nosferatu are name-checked, there is little in the story that actually necessitates vampires. The important thing about Abigail is that she kills people. She does it by biting, not with a machete or a bladed glove. What drives “Abigail” is the fundamental joy of watching a slasher horror flick – the illicit thrill of watching the blood gush and actors pretend to die in various, creative ways.

Read More: The Monstrous Feminine: 30 Best Feminist Horror Movies of All Time

Abigail (2024) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia, Letterboxd
Abigail (2024) Movie Cast: Alisha Weir, Melissa Barrera, Dan Stevens, Kathryn Newton, Angus Cloud, William Catlett, Kevin Durand, Giancarlo Esposito, Matthew Goode
Abigail (2024) Movie Genre: Vampire, Horror Comedy | Runtime: 109 min
Where to watch Abigail

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