"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Abigail

ABIGAIL (2024) is the new humorous horror-crime movie from directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, a.k.a. Radio Silence, the team behind SOUTHBOUND, READY OR NOT, SCREAM (2022) and SCREAM VI. The screenplay is credited to Stephen Shields (THE HOLE IN THE GROUND) and the usual Radio Silence guy Guy Busick.

I enjoyed this one, it’s a fun movie, but it kinda seems like it was designed without considering how it would have to be advertised. In order to explain the premise the trailers had to reveal information you don’t get until surprisingly far into the movie. It feels weird how long it pretends we don’t know, and how much of a shock it seems meant to be when it happens. You can see how much more fun it will be for anyone who sees it by accident on cable or whatever other blind viewing opportunities may exist. So in case someone out there still has that possibility, I’ll follow the movie’s example in taking my sweet time with the set up and then I’ll warn you when to cut out. 

An underworld figure called Lambert (Giancarlo Esposito, NIGHT ON EARTH) has put together a team of six criminals to kidnap a rich guy’s daughter and hide her in a remote mansion until the ransom is collected. Since they don’t know each other and he doesn’t want them to he code-names them after members of the Rat Pack: cynical tinted-glasses asshole Frank (Dan Stevens, THE GUEST), tragically-Elon-Musk-faced muscleman Peter (Kevin Durand, SMOKIN’ ACES), excellent but drugged out getaway driver Dean (Angus Cloud, Euphoria), young hacker Sammy (Kathryn Newton, THE MARTIAL ARTS KID), ex-Marine sniper Rickles (Will Catlett, Black Lightning), and ex-army medic Joey (SCREAM and SCREAM VI star Melissa Barrera), who’s supposed to be the only one to talk to the girl, a young ballerina named Abigail (Alisha Weir, Matilda from MATILDA: THE MUSICAL).

After the actual kidnapping is done and they’ve made it to the hideout it seems like the rest of the job will be easy for them. Fun, even. There’s a full bar with high quality booze, so everybody’s hanging out and making drinks, except for Joey, who says she’s waiting until after she checks on the kid. I like the contrivance they use to tell us about each of the characters. When Dean brags that he’s good at reading people and guesses some people’s specialties and backgrounds, Joey scoffs, says he got them all wrong. She doesn’t want to tell him how, but Frank puts down a hundred dollar bill and says it’s hers if she can say one true thing about him. And of course she gives him a whole list. So it turns into everyone putting down whatever cash they have to marvel at Joey’s amazingly accurate guesses about their character bios. Never mind that nobody could really do it that well – that’s just her thing.

Later, when they realize it’s a liability how much they know about each other, Frank blames Joey – even though it was his idea, that he paid her money to do! So that tells us some more about Frank.

The most notable thing that she picks up on is that Frank used to be a cop, and he says that’s why he can tell she used to be a junkie. She has an emotional backstory, tries to keep the kid from worrying too much, takes off her blindfold, moves her cuffs to the front, stands up to the others (mostly Frank) when they’re about to go too far, so she’s a nice bad guy we can root for. It’s corny, but it works.

The gang haven’t been let in on who Abigail is or why she’s valuable, so Joey starts to worry when she implies her dad is some kind of dangerous person. Frank (who’s worked with Lambert before and trusts him) thinks Joey’s being stupid, but breaks the rules to storm in and question Abigail. When she says her dad is Kristof Lazar, he says they’re all fucked, and is so spooked he wants to leave and forget about his share.

Dean says Lazar is an urban legend; he wasn’t born when THE USUAL SUSPECTS came out so he doesn’t know to say “like Keyser Soze.” They’ve heard over-the-top tales about Lazar’s henchman doing crazy massacres, and it starts to seem more believable after someone sneaks in and rips one of their heads off without anybody else seeing it.

AND NOW FOR THE SPOILER THAT YOU ALREADY KNOW IF YOU’VE SEEN ANY ADVERTISING FOR ABIGAIL. The call is coming from inside the kidnapping. During a confrontation in Abigail’s room, the kid painfully pulls her hands through the cuffs, sprouts giant needle teeth and demonic eyes, and hisses at them, because she’s a fuckin vampire. It’s definitely played like a big shock. I remember the first time I saw FROM DUSK TILL DAWN it felt a little off like this too, because the whole gimmick is how much you would have no fuckin clue it was a vampire movie if you came in fresh. But not being a member of the under a rock community, I did not come in fresh. That doesn’t matter at all after seeing it a bunch of times, so maybe it shouldn’t matter for ABIGAIL either. But I feel like I have to note it.

Once the vampire shit kicks in there’s lots of goofy bloodletting, and she has fun incorporating her ballet moves into her hunting and taunting. Weir does a great job playing a bratty (but actually much older than us) little monster. Barrera is a pretty cool lead of the modern tough-lady-in-a-leather-jacket archetype, but the funny side characters really still the movie, particularly flaky rebellious rich girl Sammy and dumb lovable (but kinda evil) lug Peter. I think hazy burnt out doofus Dean is a funny character too, but partly because it feels like his authentic personality, so knowing Cloud has since died of a drug overdose dampens it a little.

Newton was good in FREAKY, but it was LISA FRANKENSTEIN that really made me a fan – she just had such an oddball way of inhabiting that character, her weird choices and movements, there’s something brilliant about her. So I was happy to see her here, and she’s really funny again. Being a horror movie I had to worry that she could be a character that gets killed off early, but I hadn’t considered that (SPOILER) she would get to transform into a vampire! She gets a mouthful of long jagged teeth to go with those cartoonish button eyes, she gets to keep being funny, it seems like the reason to do the role. In fact there are three different cast members where they seem to have gone, “Hey, you’re a great actor. Have you ever wanted to have a scene where you turn into a vampire? Sign here.”

It’s straight forward and it’s under two hours, but there’s plenty going on – trying to figure out which vampire rules apply, finding ways to keep her at bay, learning what she’s up to. She tries to make deals with various people – you know how persuasive those vampires can be.

There’s a part at the end that kinda plays like it’s supposed to be the Sean Connery cameo at the end of ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES (spoiler for ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES) but I don’t know why this particular actor would be a big deal, so maybe not. But it made me think how funny it would be if at the end it turned out her dad was Nicolas Cage as Dracula. And I thought that without being aware that this was originally announced as a remake of DRACULA’S DAUGHTER (1936) so maybe that guy is supposed to be Dracula, the Sean Connery of literary characters. I know I speak for every single person here, reading or not reading, when I say that the 2017 version of THE MUMMY is pretty fun, rejected only because of mankind’s ignorance and the weird Pied Piper spell that Brendan Fraser once cast on all millennials, and that God will never forgive us, nor should He ever forgive us, for the cancellation of The Dark Universe. But with Heaven denied us I guess Universal has a pretty good alternate strategy of “just have different people make different monsters movies sometimes, if they want to, doesn’t really matter to me. In fact, change the name away from Dracula, make it unclear whether or not this guy is supposed to be Dracula, do you think I give a fuck? Do you think you can intimidate me? I’m a fucking globe. I keep spinning.”

Now that I’ve seen this and know that Radio Silence must be obsessed with groups of people being trapped in mansions together I’m surprised they didn’t do that in one of their SCREAMs. Maybe that would’ve been the third one they were gonna make before the production company wouldn’t wait for them to finish this one. Oh well. Series is dead to me anyway. If you’re only gonna see one of the Radio Silence mansion pictures, I’d say go with READY OR NOT. But this one is good for some chuckles too.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 23rd, 2024 at 7:07 am and is filed under Reviews, Crime, Horror. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

27 Responses to “Abigail”

  1. it kinda seems like it was designed without considering how it would have to be advertised. In order to explain the premise the trailers had to reveal information you don’t get until surprisingly far into the movie

    I dunno, I feel like if blame for that is going to land anywhere, it should land at the marketing department. They see the movie, and can gauge how much a certain development is or isn’t supposed to be a major twist. And in turn, can construct a trailer that perhaps indicates there will be some sort of twist, perhaps even give the proceedings a foreboding, ‘horror’ atmosphere so the audience doesn’t feel completely bait-and-switched, but doesn’t completely tip it’s hand.

  2. i.e. The Psycho poster didn’t depict :

    SPOILER FOR THE MOVIE “PSYCHO”

    Anthony Perkins in drag standing over Janet Leigh’s corpse. Yet peopel still seemed intrigued enough to check it out.

    END SPOILER FOR THE MOVIE “PSYCHO”

    (sorry for the double post, but I wanted to separate the spoiler from the rest. Hey, someone may not know…)

  3. I didn’t really like this one – the dialog just didn’t work for me at all, especially the humour. Bummer, because I really liked READY OR NOT. At least the actors are having fun.
    Absolutely agreed that the movie would be infinitely better coming in blind, I wonder if that would have made me like it more.

    It does improve once the fangs are out, gore is running freely and [SPOILERS] the vampire is chasing people acting like Dee Dee out of Dexter’s Lab. But the whole ending is just so drawn out and stupid I went right back to being thoroughly underwhelmed.

    It was cool that Abigail somehow got a hold of a shellac edition of Danzig II for her gramophone. If you’re going to use ill-gotten gains for anything, that’s one damn good use of blood money!

  4. Coincidentally, this is the third movie I’ve watched in the last week or so with cinematographer Aaron Morton (this, NO ONE WILL SAVE YOU, and THE FIRST OMEN). He’s been busy.

    Not that I’m complaining, he’s great. I think FIRST OMEN beats ABIGAIL easily, but there were a couple of really good scenes here where all colour is drained until things look almost monochrome.

  5. I agree with Vern that Newton and Durand were the best parts. I loved when SPOILER Abigail reveals herself as a vampire how Newton just says, “No, no, no…” as she immediately runs away. I did not know that Durand was using his natural accent until I read about it after seeing the movie. I always enjoy when he shows up in something. Honestly, though, I think they all did a good job. I like Berrera and Stevens can play both a good guy and a scumbag really well and he did a good job balancing on that line so you weren’t sure where he was going to come out at the end.

    ***SPOILERS*** I agree that it would’ve been a lot more fun to go into this not knowing the twist and I think they could’ve leaked a bit into the previews about it taking a horror turn, like just the people talking about vampires, without revealing why, but savvy movie goers probably would’ve figured it out anyway, so maybe not. But the end was too much. They should’ve cut the part with the dad showing up. Maybe it would’ve been more essential if they stuck with it being DRACULA’S DAUGHTER, but as it was, we didn’t need to meet him. Just let him be a dangling thread where you’re not sure what his deal was. Maybe the reveal of the actor was supposed to mean something because both he and Dan Stevens played Lady Mary’s husbands in Downton Abbey? Yeah, probably not.

    Overall, I liked it, though.

  6. NO SPOILERS.

    I saw the trailer for this in front of several movies over the last few months, so I guess the big twist was something I was already expecting. I would have liked it better if they marketed it without it, and I don’t think the movie realized the full potential of said twist. But still I liked this quite a bit.

    I think the reason is because, honestly, I think this was the most well-cast studio movie in years. Not because these are all really skilled actors (they are) but because the casting director really had an eye for who would bounce off each other, and in what way. Some of these actors are people I had seen and felt were underutilized for years, and some were totally fresh and utterly revelatory.

    I’m with Vern on the late Angus Cloud — it was disappointing that his performance wasn’t an affectation, but he was still interesting as this addled dealmaker who was more than meets the eye. I hadn’t seen Will Catlett before, but I couldn’t look away from his feline eyes (hah! CATlett!) and covert flirtation. Newton is pretty brilliant here, particularly in the third act, and I’m surprised we don’t see more of Durand — here he got to be both a little sexy and very funny. Melissa Barrera is kind of the straight man to all this, and she was pretty good in that respect. And Dan Stevens… why can’t we make this guy a star? I know this is going to sound cruel, but to me he’s like, what if Jim Carrey was also a great actor? On the page, this character seems like a straightforward buffoon, but he gives every line-reading a comic edge, he’s hysterical with every reading. And the kid… this movie genuinely doesn’t work if the kid is no good. And in this case, the little girl is INCREDIBLE.

    SPOILERS HEREIN
    I kinda felt like maybe they had a different third act at one point, maybe something more low-key. And maybe the studio told them, “look, this is how we’re going to market it [because we have no imagination whatsoever]” and they thought, hey, we should action this up a little. So those last ten minutes are like one clunky action climax after another, followed by that low-stakes cameo featuring an actor (probably their tenth choice) who has never been interesting and in fact has already played a lesser vampire before. It’s not a terrible ending, but it feels like a letdown after the first two acts.

  7. Marketing was right to spoil this…first, most people don’t really care that much about general spoilers. They’ve focus tested that. Audiences like knowing what they’re getting. Also, I feel liek this surprise is actually sort of a big fart. Like, the reveal of a vampire…that’s the same kind of big shocking twist commonly used since Tales from the Crypt comics. We may not know specifically it’s a vampire, but the movie is clearly a horror so we know it’s going to be something weird and cool and crazy…then it’s just another ol’ vampire. Phhbt.

    The twist works so amazingly in From Dusk Til Dawn because, until the second a vampire shows up, there is NO INDICATION you’re watching a horror movie. There’s no horror mood, no creepy Gothic mansions, no suspense music. Just crime movie and then a crazy rock and roll party house. A genuine switch up not just hiding the reveal.

    And why Jojo is awrong, and I’m certain he will not read this because of his deep intellect and ultimate good taste, is actually the Psycho trailer, while hyped as not showing a frame of the actual movie until the very end, is actually one of the most incredibly fucking spoilery goddamn trailers you’ve ever seen. It’s not about the reveal of the specific mystery at the end of the movie, it’s telling you what you’re gonna get. Hitch literally walks you through the movie you’re gonna watch. He even gives us the details of the two murders that happen in the movie, so if you recall the trailer while seeing it you know that bathroom is gonna be a killing and the stairs is gonna be a killing, so you even know ahead of time who’s going to bite the big one. And he even lets you know how…a woman with a knife stabs them to death, the title even tells us this woman is a Psycho. The twist is it’s Perkins and not actual Mother, but we’re not left dangling about the movie we’re gonna get. We know we’re getting a thriller movie about a psychotic person murdering people. That’s basically the whole thing.

  8. Glaive, you never know but I’d be surprised if the movie had a lower key ending…it’s Radio Silence who always seem to end their stuff huge. Even their segments for anthologies were always the capper because they did The Big One.

  9. The way you worded that end bit had be so fucking excited that the end cameo reveal was gonna be Luke Evans reprising his role from Dracula Untold. And now I’m sad that’s not it

  10. SPOILERS
    Well, ok, first of all, muh, maybe they didn’t have a smaller ending, but I’ll bet they did a different ending. The editing for this last twenty minutes felt so choppy and second-unit-ish, so none of the reversals (he’s on top! She’s on top! Abigail is back!) really land, which sucks because that end is just STAB STAB STAB STAB STAB. Also, maybe they had other plans for Giancarlo Esposito? He gets senior billing and only two scenes, and you don’t even get the sense that maybe he is Lazar. Seems like a waste.

    Also, personally, I find it kind of silly that you can focus-group the idea that audiences do or do not like surprises/spoilers. Like, how do you figure that out? In real life, the people we know who say that hate surprises always LOVE surprises. And they people who often say they like to be surprised are more likely to stick to what they know and like.

    It’s the reason why Cinemascore ratings for horror movies are always lower. People love horror movies, but horror movies are based on being surprised, being taken off-guard, confronting the unknown. So the people who were so excited to see that horror movie walk out in a sour mood, and they just dole out negative ratings, even though gradually, they realize they had a great time. The average person loves being scared, but in the moment, they HATE it.

  11. @ Glaive Robber
    They didn’t focus test to find out people like spoilers, The university of callafornia did a study where people were asked to rate their enjoyment of a story, a control group was given the story blind, and another group was given the story with a short blurb that spoiled the main twist.
    The group that had the main twist rated teh story as more enjoyable then the group who went in blind

  12. Yes, I understand why the marketers would market the movie in such a way that people would want to see it. That doesn’t change that the story plays out as if no one knows about it, and would be more satisfying if you were able to see it that way.

  13. I wonder what movie got done the most dirty by being spoiled by a trailer? I’m still salty that the Terminator Salvation trailer gave away Sam Worthington being a terminator.

  14. Well in T2 where it would be a huge twist to have Arnold be the good guy…everyone knew it but the movie plays like they didn’t. But there was no way they could not market it that way. Glaive, there was an infamous trailer for What Lies Beneath where if you have seen it, renders the first entire 70 minutes or so of mystery inert. And Zemeckis said they had been doing focus testing and that’s what people wanted, so he did it. I mean that trailer essentially gives it ALL up but the final final twist. I actually know someone who likes suspense movies and stuff liek that, and she looks for spoilers before she sees it because she doesn’t want to be stressed out and if she knows what’s going to happen she can just enjoy watching the movie. That ain’t for me but hey, different folks out there!

    I think the time for a movie with one big twist like “she’s a vampire” and that is literally the selling point, needs to be super under the radar or just get released to streaming land. To me it’s not really that great a twist anyway, we’ve seen variations of this movie a ton of times, even the “kidnappers abduct a kid and it’s a monster” trope I’ve seen 2-3 times at least so right away if I’m watching this thing I’m assuming she’s some sort of creature. Or they just need to do more with the concept, I dunno. Do a vampire but have there be a second twist. Something like Barbarian worked because it was a series of left turns.

  15. I think the SPOILER BY INFERENCE SPOILER BY INFERENCE SPOILER BY INFERENCE From Dusk Til Dawn comparison is apt, but where FDTD worked really well was seeming like a legit crime thriller and then going into a legit horror movie. This is more like a comedic crime movie (and not even in a convincing, Elmore Leonard sort of way) going into a horror-comedy, which isn’t as big a leap. The characters go from making MCU quips about crime to MCU quips about vampires. And the ending…

    I’ll accept one character being a sadist who would rather “play with their food” than just kill their enemy, but when pretty much every character is going full Bond villain with the “I *could* just kill you, but that would be too easy!”… just feels contrived. As does the “oh, we’ve never mentioned it before now, but you need to be a Level 20 Vampire to do vampire stuff, you’re only a lowly Level 1 Vampire!” ‘twist’. Couldn’t stop picturing Cary Elwes pulling out the script in Men In Tights. “I lost? I’m not supposed to *lose*!”

    And I don’t think they really earned the self-homage of ending their movie on the same final frame as Ready Or Not. Like, dudes, you made two Scream movies after Wes Craven primed the pump four times. Should you really be that impressed with yourselves?

  16. @muh
    Honestly I think T2 is a great example that spoilers don’t really make a movie worse. T2 rules and most people don’t even realise it’s played for a twist until you point it out to em. Like I grew up watching T2 on a taped off the TV VHS and had never seen T1 cause I was too young and couldn’t handle the scary one. So I only ever knew Arnie as the good guy in Terminator till I was like 12-13 and T2 still… fucking ruled. Like I still watched it enough times that I can pretty much quote the entire film verbatim.

  17. Re: movies being ruined by trailers, the Vin Diesel movie BLOODSHOT is not worth watching if you’ve seen the trailer. The only interesting thing about it is the twist, which happens pretty deep in the movie, and the trailer gives it away nonchalantly. (I fortunately didn’t watch the trailer beforehand and only learned this after — luckily, I’d been too burnt by the Fast and Furious trailers giving away all the best stunts, even the climactic ones, so I had already forsworn trailers for all Vin Diesel projects in general.)

  18. I always wonder about spoilers for things that are addaptations like Bloodshot, like yeah they ruin the twist, but also it’s addapting a comic book character from 2004 (The version of bloodshot that does that twist)
    But also, no one fucking read bloodshot so no ones gonna know that twist.
    But on the same note I once got chastised for ruining the end of Peter Jacksons King Kong by spoiling that Kong dies and its like… I wonder what level of fame a story has to have before it stops being a spoiler? Like is there a line, or is it more just kinda a vibe?

  19. “I wonder what level of fame a story has to have before it stops being a spoiler?” There’s a episode of Cheers I still think about where the gang keeps spoiling things for Frasier until he finally snaps and storms out telling everyone rosebud is the sled, in murder on the orient express they all did it, and Darth Vader is Luke’s father.

  20. Personally, I think the biggest issue with the marketing of “Abigail”, specifically the trailer, is not that they reveal who Abigail actually is, but that in doing so they really show off all the best bits (particularly the red-band trailer). You could have done something like the infamous trailer for “Red Eye”, which shows pretty much the first half hour of the movie, but then ends on the twist about Cillian Murphy’s character, imply what the rest of the movie would be like without showing it. Actually, that recent “Trap” trailer from M Night Shyamalan looks like another good example of this too.

  21. I’ve got mixed feelings about spoiler reveals. There were people who got very upset if you mentioned the suicides at the end of the DiCaprio/Danes ROMEO + JULIET, even though it’s from a 400-year-old play and the deaths are mentioned in the opening scene.

    Another example. There’s a fairly well-known novel that starts off with this sentence: “Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write.” It was adapted into an equally well-known movie where no one is named Eunice or Parchman or Coverdale, and all of that plot information is withheld until deep into the film. So if a review mentions the premise that the original book begins with, is that a spoiler?

    There was a movie a couple of years ago that I never saw, but all the marketing made it clear that it was about a vampire taken hostage on an airplane. Was that meant to be a spoiler too?

  22. @Matthew B
    Do you mean Blood Red Sky the vampire movie? It’s pretty great, the vampire gimick isn’t revealed like from the start but it’s fairly early on so I wouldn’t consider it a twist. I think it’s the end reveal of act 1 from memory.

  23. Ben: Yeah, that’s the one. Glad to hear it wasn’t intended as a huge surprise.

  24. rewatching that trailer it’s actually pretty clever in that ti gives you the first act vampire reveal but then doesn’t tell you a shit load of twists and turns that the movie takes around the mid half so it’s still actually doing a pretty good job of hiding what kind of movie it is.

  25. I’ll just add based upon the marketing I saw, reading about kidnappers, Dan Stevens, et al was the spoiler. As the only promotional material I saw was one huge poster while walking through the lobby of AMC. The entirely of which was:

    SPOILER

    A tight close-up of a young girl with Exorcist make-up, bearing large, vampire teeth.

    END SPOILER

    with a title below. So, if what the above review indicates is true (I haven’t seen the film yet), and the above image is supposed to be a end-of-second-act twist/sooprize, I think the aforementioned marketing is textbook (as they used to say in burlesque) “giving it away on the poster”

  26. Coming in late, but I think you all are crazy to focus so much on whether this was “spoiled.” Yes, I went in knowing what Abigail’s deal is. The point is that the CHARACTERS don’t know. That’s where the suspense is. (besides, even if we know she’s Dracula’s Daughter –the original title, after all– we may well assume that the danger is coming from the father, which is what they originally assume anyways)

  27. I like the movie a lot, the humor just clicked for me because let’s face it, it’s kind of a comedy/horror hybrid and not straight horror. But I too wish I didn’t know the twist.
    As for all the comparisons to the marketing of T2, I don’t think it’s apt. Arnold turns out to be good fairly early on, it is not the dramatic twist of the movie the way that Abigail being a 1000 year old vampire is.

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