ABIGAIL Delivers the Blood, But Needs More Guts

While its bite may be uneven, this monstrous thriller continues Radio Silence’s enviable streak of unpredictable horror-comedies

Stills courtesy of Universal Pictures.

A ragtag team of kidnappers descend upon a fortified mansion, each using their unique skillset to subdue and spirit away young ballerina Abigail (Alisha Weir). They hole up in a crumbling country house, awaiting further instructions–with “Joey” (Melissa Barrera) as the sole point of contact with their pre-teen victim for compartmentalization. They stick to their aliases and enjoy the easier part of their job, waiting out the clock until they get their money. However, the members of the team get picked off one by one in gruesome ways. The crew turns on one another, desperate to stay alive long enough to reap the rewards of their increasing shares of ransom money. But as much as they harbor their own secrets, little Abigail has the deadliest of them all…

Directing duo Radio Silence (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett) have long since proven their bonafides at blending horror, comedy, and action with films like Ready or Not, Southbound, and the last two Scream films. However, the pair still show they have dozens of fiendishly clever tricks up their viscera-drenched sleeves with Abigail, a gory blast rich with blood, guts, and laughs in equal measure. While the film may have its shortcomings, Abigail joins films like Immaculate, Lisa Frankenstein, Late Night with the Devil, and The First Omen in making 2024 a fantastic year for horror in its first four months alone. 

As with their previous films, the Radio Silence team effectively channels the strengths of their cast while granting them the freedom to get weird and wild with the material they’re given. Melissa Barrera joins the team for her first post-Scream outing and quickly solidifies her well-earned role as a modern horror icon. Much like Ready or Not’s Samara Weaving, Joey is a headstrong, capable force of nature, here tempered by years of carefully honed defense skills and bitter reservation. There’s a vulnerability to Barrera’s character that she’s careful to dial the audience into without showing too much to her other cast members–a tactic that pays quick dividends as the film progresses. Abigail is yet another welcome entry in the “Dan Stevens goes absolutely unhinged” canon, as his Tim Robinson-inspired team leader has his bombastic bravado progressively chopped to pieces alongside the rest of his crew. Alisha Weir is a delightful standout as the elusive turned venomous Abigail, quickly weaponizing the innocent traits of similar characters like Dakota Fanning in Man on Fire or Kristen Stewart in Panic Room before going on such an eye-popping rampage. Supporting players all have chances to shine amidst the grisly absurdity–including Kathryn Newton (a funny flip of the coin from this year’s Lisa Frankenstein), the dearly departed Angus Cloud, humorous heavy Kevin Durand, a courageously stoic William Catlett, and an ever-mysterious Giancarlo Esposito.

The strength of the ensemble allows the film to settle into its initial place as a trust-no-one self-contained thriller, playing up the cat-and-mouse game of aliases and shady backgrounds in a quickly engaging and satisfying way. Even without its pivot into horror, widely telegraphed in the film’s marketing as its main selling point, Abigail is a fun, tense film in this regard–and given just how much Radio Silence takes its time in sticking to this original thriller mode, one could wonder if this should have even been spoiled at all, a la From Dusk Till Dawn. Once Abigail as a film and character rip off the mask of pretense, both cast and crew have a ridiculously bloody time reveling in what Abigail really is. Bettinelli-Olpin, Gillett, and writers Stephen Shields and Guy Busick pack the runtime with inventive kills, tense shocks, and hilarious banter well worth the price of admission, skewering genre tropes and conventions on its characters’ hand-fashioned stakes along the way. 

However, I can’t help but feel that for all of its clever reveals and subversions, none of Abigail’s tongue-in-cheek twists ever live up to the manic mayhem of its midpoint upending of the plot. There are clever side quests and wonderfully tense moments, to be sure, but the buckets of blood at points feel more like the grease that allows the film’s wheels to spin before we get to moments that strive for greater or more meaningful suspense or impact. After several bloody sequences, I’m relieved to say the film manages to pick up steam again–with major credit to Barrera, Stevens, and Weir in particular for what becomes a magnetic and brutal dynamic together. One can’t help but feel that for all of its gut-churning visuals and gut-busting banter that Abigail might have a bit more bite with a few more judicial trimmings. 

These shortcomings, however, don’t stop Radio Silence from continuing to make the horror-comedy genre look so devilishly easy to pull off. Abigail is still a sinister and silly good time at the movies, anchored by a cast gone wild and a creative team that’s more than willing to let them run rampant.

Abigail hits theaters on April 19th courtesy of Universal Pictures.

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