The Movie Waffler New to VOD - ABIGAIL | The Movie Waffler


A group of criminals are tasked with keeping watch on a bloodthirsty vampire child.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett

Starring: Alisha Weir, Melissa Barrera, Dan Stevens, Kathryn Newton, William Catlett, Kevin Durand, Giancarlo Esposito, Angus Cloud

Abigail poster

A format beloved of Poverty Row programmers of the 1930s and '40s was to stick a disparate bunch of characters in an old mansion with some type of monster on the loose. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett's Abigail is so indebted to those creaky but charming old b-movies that it's only lacking a scene in which a character hides in a suit of armour. It's so besotted with its '30s horror influence that it even employs Tchaikovsky's 'Swan Lake' as a musical motif, as of course did Tod Browning's 1931 Dracula. Abigail is essentially a '30s programmer with '80s gore. A surefire crowd-pleaser for horror fans so?

Abigail review

Well, not quite. Abigail certainly delivers on its promise, but it never lives up to its premise and there's none of the invention that made the best horror movies of the '80s so much fun.

That premise is a doozy though. Six criminals are holed up in a secluded mansion where they're asked to keep watch over Abigail (Alisha Weir), the kidnapped ostensibly 12-year-old daughter of some ambiguous tech billionaire. What they come to realise with grave consequences is that Abigail is actually a centuries old vampire, and she's very, very thirsty for blood.

Abigail review

As with their over-rated 2019 thriller Ready or Not (which reworked 1932's The Most Dangerous Game), Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett deliver everything you expect from their latest film's high concept setup; the trouble is they don't give you anything unexpected. If you're licking your lips at the prospect of a series of outrageously staged kill sequences you'll be considerably let down. The first death is a funny bit involving Kathryn Newton's ditzy Linnea Quigley-alike teen hacker Sammy (all the criminals are assigned names based on the Rat Pack) discovering a headless body, a gory update on just the sort of gag you might find Willie Best involved in if this were made in 1938. But the rest of the kills are uninspired and the film's pacing suffers greatly from how unevenly they're spread out. Two characters are killed off relatively early on but it takes an age for the rest to begin to be whittled down.

Abigail is lacking in effective horror but makes up for it somewhat with some entertaining comic performances. The highlights are the always watchable Newton and the hulking Kevin Durand as Peter, a hilariously dumb hoodlum, the type of character who would always be speaking the words "Aww gee boss" if this had been made by Monogram in 1937. Playing it straight, Weir is fantastic as the titular tween terror. I'm rarely convinced when an Irish actor attempts an American accent but to my eras at least, Weir's effort is flawless. She also manages to convince us that we're watching a centuries old creature inhabit a child's body. Frankly, it's a performance that's far too good for this movie. Despite their best efforts, Dan Stevens and Melissa Barrera struggle to make anything of their archetypal characters: the gang leader with a propensity for violence and the ex-junkie who wants to reform her ways for the sake of her son.

Abigail review

Poverty Row programmers were rarely great, sometimes good, often bad and usually mediocre. Abigail is never great, sometimes good, never quite bad and generally mediocre. There's just about enough to amuse fans of this sort of stuff (of which I am most definitely one), but despite the gallons of blood on screen, you'll be left thirsty for genuinely great vampire thrills.

 is on UK/ROI VOD now.

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