Abigail Review

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The creepy kid trope is nothing new. The Omen franchise is still banking on it almost fifty years later. Few films have had more fun with the idea than Abigail, however. The movie comes from Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, the same directing duo behind Ready or Not and the most recent Scream sequels. Abigail plays like their take on Let the Right One In, although the project started as a reboot of Dracula’s Daughter. Like their past efforts, Abigail has a self-aware edge, but never turns into a straight-up comedy. It’s a horror picture to the core, draped in a foreboding atmosphere, gothic production design, and buckets of blood.

Alisha Weir goes from Matilda Wormwood to playing the titular Abigail, another little girl with special powers and neglectful parents. When a group of kidnappers take Abigail hostage, none of them realize what they’ve signed up for. In Reservoir Dogs fashion, mastermind Lambert (Giancarlo Esposito) assigns each kidnapper a fake name. Melissa Barrera defends her scream queen crown as Joey, a recovering addict trying to stay clean for her son. Dan Stevens reminds us how underappreciated he is as Frank, a crooked cop turned crooked criminal. Kathryn Newton continues to delight as Sammy, a hacker in this for the kicks.

The team is rounded out by Kevin Durand’s Peter, Will Catlett’s Rickles, and the late Angus Cloud’s Dean. Although Frank is an antagonist we love to hate, we otherwise come to like each of the kidnappers, despite their criminal backgrounds. There’s a genuine investment when they start dropping like flies. It takes about fifteen minutes too long for the characters to figure out who’s behind this, causing the first act to occasionally drag. Even if the trailers and title didn’t give it away, the audience would still be a step ahead of these people. Once Abigail is unleashed, though, the film is a rollercoaster that never slows down.

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Weir hits just about every note perfectly here. Although the audience can tell from the get-go that there’s something off about Abigail, Weir sells it as a delicate little girl frightened for her life. Of course, that’s all an act with Abigail soon establishing that she isn’t trapped with the kidnappers. They’re trapped with her. This is where Weir gets to have fun behind a set of blood-soaked fangs and demonic eyes, yet she resists going too over the top. Whether playing innocent or deadly, Abigail finds a way to cleverly incorporate ballet into her routine, making for the most memorable mix of horror and dance since M3GAN.

While we want to see most of the kidnappers make it to sunrise, Abigail is also a surprisingly empathetic figure. Imagine Kirsten Dunst’s character from Interview with the Vampire if she lived longer and just wanted Tom Cruise’s attention centuries later. It might not be the deepest exploration of child neglect, but there’s more depth than anticipated. Abigail is primarily concerned with delivering a good time, however. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett won’t disappoint with a well-assembled cast, inventive scares, and razor-sharp wit. It’s an all-around gut-bursting good time with plenty of heart splattered among the other body parts.

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About Nick Spake

Nick Spake has been working as an entertainment writer for the past ten years, but he's been a lover of film ever since seeing the opening sequence of The Lion King. Movies are more than just escapism to Nick, they're a crucial part of our society that shape who we are. He now serves as the Features Editor at Flickreel and author of its regular column, 'Nick Flicks'.

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