ABIGAIL

★★

"A BALLERINA VAMPIRE"

THEATRICAL REVIEW
By Charlie David Page
17th April 2024

Yes, "A ballerina vampire." This direct quote from one of the characters is all you need to know about 'Abigail', the latest film to come to us from Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, the directors of 'Ready or Not' and 'Scream VI'. The question is: can this ludicrous premise walk the fine line and bring us a joyful horror film, or will it fall into its own trap and just plain suck?

A 12-year-old girl (Alisha Weir, 'Wicked Little Letters', 'Roald Dahl's Matilda the Musical') is kidnapped by a team and held for ransom for $7 million per member. The catch? She's no ordinary girl. She's a vampire, hell-bent on killing the collective who has taken her captive. But will anyone be able to escape the clutches of this blood-sucking ballerina?

There's little left to surprise you about 'Abigail'. The above synopsis is all thoroughly covered in the trailer; a much more crafty marketing campaign would have left the fact the kid was the baddie a secret, which at least would have given the film some original ground to tread. As it is, we're lucky if we get 20 to 30 minutes of original material - and I use that word very loosely, as just because we don't know what's coming doesn't necessarily make it good. While I won't spoil anything here, there's little to take away here... other than a strangely heartwarming ending? Yeah, I'll leave you to see it and figure out for yourself exactly what I mean, but it's not exactly the kind of finale you expect from a horror film.

SWITCH: 'ABIGAIL' TRAILER

But then, there's not much in the way of subtlety or nuance to this horror, a common trend from Hollywood studio movies of the genre. There are buckets of blood, gallons of gore (or whatever it is you want to call the black stuff that splatters out of vampires when you shoot or stab them) and some top-notch vampire fang designs, leading to its MA15+ rating here in Australia, however there's almost not a moment of tension, of genuine fear, of scariness, of what defines the genre - horror. When you go in knowing full well who the Big Bad is and what's going to take place, so much of the story is already written, leaving very little opportunity for you to experience anything truly unique.

What's there probably comes from its ensemble. They all have differing personalities, and so play well together. Sammy (Kathryn Newton, 'Ant-Man and the Wasp', 'Pokémon Detective Pikachu') is the bright and bubbly hacker, Peter (Kevin Durand, 'The Captive', 'Fruitvale Station') is the muscle and comedic relief, Frank (Dan Stevens, 'Her Smell', TV's 'Downton Abbey') is the leader with control issues, weirdo driver Dean (the late Angus Cloud, TV's 'Euphoria'), unfortunately, Rickles (William Catlett, Apple TV+'s 'Constellation'), would seem to be the token Black member of the group, and of course group mum Joey (Melissa Barrera, 'Scream VI', 'In The Heights'). (It's worth noting these aren't their real names; rather, their cover names to keep personal details hidden from each other.) It's enjoyable to see them all interact together... which, oddly, probably defeats the purpose of the film. These are the bad guys. These are the meat. It's a film about a vampire ballerina, for the love of god. We're kind of meant to be relishing in her wildly unnecessary hunting, her über-intricate kills, the overdramatic deaths, the somewhat campy premise. That never comes in whole, so we're left to relish what little there is to take away.

There are buckets of blood, gallons of gore and some top-notch vampire fang designs, however there's almost not a moment of tension, of genuine fear, of scariness, of what defines the genre - horror.

Which isn't a great deal. What starts off as a cringe-worthy premise ends in a glossy red but faux bloodbath, dripping with artificiality and derived for those with short attention spans. Don't expect clever craft or nuance; any effort to truly horrify the audience has sadly been lost along the way. If you're desperate to fill 109 minutes of your time, there are worse things you could watch than 'Abigail' - but if I were you, I'd passé.

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