Review – Abigail (2024)

New horror instalment from directing duo Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillet sees a group of unscrupulous criminals brought together to carry out the carefully plotted kidnapping of a billionaire’s daughter and subsequent blackmail for ransom. The power play quickly changes however once the group discover that they are in fact victims of a game orchestrated by an unlikely puppet master.

Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillet are well known for their original horror concepts which combine vivid scenes of violence with a comedic overtone; to this, Abigail is no exception. The movie follows the group as they are plunged into a fast-paced game of cat and mouse and amongst the carnage, comedy and ballet, portrays a modern twist on the traditional vampire sub-genre.

(Screenrant, 2024)

One stand out element from Abigail was the homage paid throughout to Tchaicovsky’s ballet Swan Lake. Abigail (Alisha Weir) herself, whilst dressed in a feathered tutu, provides us with several dance sequences which are accompanied by the unmistakable Swan Lake theme; this is reminiscent of the white swan. However, despite the physical likeness to the beautiful and innocent white swan,

Abigail’s character is more implicative of the dark and manipulative black swan. When we first meet Abigail she presents a small and frightened demeanour – as expected since we believe that she has just been abducted from her family home. As we uncover more about Abigail’s character we see her transform into an evil and vengeful creature who only played the innocent in order to trap her believed kidnappers and lure them into her game. The choice here to mirror Tchaicovsky’s ballet allowed Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillet to create a balance between the classy and elegant – two themes often associated with vampirism – and the graphic blood and gore.

(Variety, 2024)

Returning to the aforementioned modern twist on the vampire genre, Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillet were not only able to incorporate traditional associations with the mythology, but elevate them in order to entice a modern day audience and provide Abigail with its own, original vampire lore. One scene that we always expect -but is nevertheless enjoyable – is the sequence in which our characters try to decipher how to kill a vampire. We are treated to all of the classics including: stake through the heart, sunlight and a humorous mix up between garlic and onions. Here we are provided with all of the traditional mythology which without, you couldn’t possibly imagine making a vampire flick!

What struck me as the most innovative choice was the way in which the vampire legend was established within the narrative. Once the group realise that they have been trapped and are being picked off one by one, they recall a rumour that they had heard concerning one of Abigail’s billionaire father’s bodyguards, who literally tears apart his enemies like an animal. This was a clever way to maintain the vampire figure as an urban legend but update the way it is presented to our characters in order to uphold the mystery of their attacker, and raise the stakes once they uncover the truth.

(Bloody Disgusting, 2024)

Another important theme addressed in Abigail is the internal conflict of the human versus the monster. Right from the word go we understand that our group of kidnappers are monstrous enough to abduct an unsuspecting child for their own profit; it isn’t until later however, that we learn why each of them sign on to the job and can separate the selfish from the desperate.

Joey (Melissa Barerra) and Frank (Dan Stevens) are two of our criminals who are pitted against one another in order to convey this contrast. Joey is elected to watch over Abigail whilst she is locked up in the mansion they are holed up in, this allows us to see a more compassionate side to her; we also learn she has a son, her reason for participating in the crime in the first place.

Frank on the other hand is aggressive and abrasive in his attempt to lead the group suggesting that his true desire is power. We see Frank wrestle with his humanity and his loyalty to the group but he eventually succumbs to his own sense of self preservation resulting in a permanent embrace of the monster, both inside and out. In a final showdown we see Joey fighting – alongside an unlikely ally – to keep her promise to her son, and return home to her family. It is through Frank we learn it’s not just the curse of vampirism which makes someone a monster and through Joey that one can commit a monstrous act with the most human of intentions.

(CBR, 2024)

Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillet have once again created a wacky and unique horror picture that audiences won’t soon forget as Abigail has taken theatres by storm and proven to be a thrilling cinema experience. This vampire-comedy uses the art of ballet to display some unforgettable scenes of violence whilst reminding us that a delicate, twelve year old dancer is the undoing of six hardened criminals. The success of Abigail will hopefully pave the way for more exciting genre experiments and unexpected hybrid horror films in the future!

Hope Lelliott-Stevens

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