Abigail (2024) Review

Abigail (2024) Review

Abigail (2024)
Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
Screenwriters: Stephen Shields, Guy Busick
Starring: Melissa Barrera, Dan Stevens, Alisha Weir, Kathryn Newton, Angus Cloud, Giancarlo Esposito

Universal Monster movies are a thing of the past. Even new movies that are inspired by them are hard to come by, with mainstream horror trends moving towards the exploitation of everyday life instead of using a physical being as the source of our terror. With Abigail, we’ve got a bit of a throwback – it’s a retelling of Dracula’s Daughter (1936). As much as it’s new, much vaguer title suggests, however, it seems as if it would rather we didn’t know that going into it.

Abigail begins under the guise of a heist movie. We meet the criminals, learn about the plan, and then we end up in what appears to be a Reservoir Dogs-style situation. The criminals kidnap a young girl, the titular Abigail (Alisha Weir), and have to get through the next 24 hours with only each other as company. Plus, their phones are handily confiscated for good measure. There’s some mystery around who the girl is and why they’ve kidnapped her, but it becomes clear very early on that this is a group of career criminals who barely know each other. 

In an early scene, every character is established through dialogue. Joey (Melissa Barrera) holds the attention of the room as she correctly bullet points key personality traits and brief histories for each of her new colleagues. Acteur (Dan Stevens) is a former cop, Peter (Kevin Durand) is a Drax-style muscle-bound bonehead, Sammy (Kathryn Newton) is a rich kid looking for a thrill, Rickles (William Catlett) is ex-military, and Dean (Angus Cloud) is an unprofessional stoner. Unfortunately, none of these characters really grow beyond Joey’s descriptions of them. 

Everyone acts in exactly the way that is expected of their archetypes, and no one ever really surprises us. Although the set-up is reminiscent of Reservoir Dogs, it quickly turns into The Thing – there’s a sense of paranoia because strange things are happening and the characters’ lives are now at risk. But, because the characters are so shallow, Abigail is completely void of the tension that made The Thing such a famous film. There’s no question of whether there’s an imposter amongst the group either, because nobody seems to have the capability to surprise us – not even Abigail, whose peculiar character traits were outlined in the film’s marketing.

Once Abigail starts getting into the vampire story, things become confused. There’s a clash of styles, and it’s as if there’s a tug of war going on which results in neither take on the vampire story being completed to its fullest potential. On the one hand, there’s a classic absurdist monster movie, and on the other there’s a 90s-style drugs and sex allegory that feels like a lost Joel Schumacher movie. The latter, although very watchable, is so out of place with such a young antagonist that it creates the illusion of two entirely different films being mashed together. 

The absurdist monster movie portion also comes with its flaws. Primarily, it is far too self-serious. There are sequences of extreme gore accentuated by a child in a ballerina costume, but everyone is so straight-faced. The gore element is also impressively repetitive; each big set-piece that centres around an excess of blood looks remarkably similar to every other. There are multiple old-school cheesy action-style lines of dialogue, but none of it lands with a sense of humour.

Abigail tries to be multiple things, but unfortunately falls short of being any of them. Perhaps most frustratingly, it isn’t even imaginative enough to fully hit the brief of providing a cheap thrill of an experience. It is quite watchable in places, but it leaves you to wonder about what it could have been if it had chosen just one identity to explore to its fullest potential.

Score: 7/24

Rating: 1 out of 5.

By Rob Jones

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