Scream directors on new vampire horror movie's big Dracula Easter egg

Alisha Weir as Abigail in Abigail
(Image credit: Universal)

Back in 1931, Tod Browning's beloved Universal adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula opened with a title card set to the main theme of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake. Abigail, the latest horror movie from Scream directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, opens in a similar way: with its titular character ballet-dancing to the orchestral tune. 

"That was on the page, in the first script," Bettinelli-Olpin tells GamesRadar+. "It just said, 'Abigail, in a rehearsal studio, dancing to Swan Lake' and we just loved it, to tie-in with the original Dracula right off the bat." (We hope that pun was intended).  

"We're like, ‘Oh, cool. I know what this is. I know the movie's self aware and that it exists in a world with Dracula?' So then we just really steered into it," he continues, noting that the film references the likes of Twilight, True Blood, and Anne Rice novels. "I think for many of us who love the original Dracula, we think of Swan Lake as the theme right? I think we just took that and then decided that we would use it throughout the entire movie."

Alisha Weir as Abigail in Abigail

(Image credit: Universal)

The music is used in the trailer, too, signposting an early "twist" that sets up Abigail's entire premise. Loosely based on Dracula's Daughter, it follows a motley crew of criminals – each with their own special skill, and Rat Pack-inspired codename – as they drug and kidnap a mysterious billionaire's kid. After bundling her in a bag and driving her out to a swanky country manor, the team are told to keep the youngster blindfolded and locked away, while the mission's mastermind negotiates a $50 million ransom from her father. Easy money, right? Well, it might have been, had Abigail (Matilda's Alisha Weir) not been a vampire...

"It was amazing," Weir says of making the fang-filled flick. "Getting to do everything I love in one film, and getting to do crazy things like stunts on wires. Getting to do flips, the fighting scenes as well, it was just so much fun all the time.

"When they told me about all these crazy things that Abigail gets to do, I was so excited and they asked me if I wanted to [do them myself] and I was like '100%'. I wanted to give it my best shot, to try it all. Learning how to go on pointe was so special. We had an amazing choreographer, Belinda Murphy, who was so helpful with that side of it and we had an amazing stunt team as well. It was just amazing."

Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett are no strangers to iconic horror movie villains, having bossed several Ghostfaces about on the sets of Scream and Scream 6. It's no surprise, then, that the duo, along with script writers Stephen Shields and Guy Busick, have ensured wild-eyed, spiky-teethed Abigail, with her bejeweled and bloodsoaked tutu, is set to join the pantheon of the genre's greatest antagonists. 

Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett on the set of Abigail

(Image credit: Universal)

"I remember the first day you showed up on set with the whole get-up," Joey actor Melissa Barrera recalls to her pint-sized co-star. "We were shooting another scene and they told us you were going to come in with the full look; the eyes, the teeth, the makeup, the dress, everything. I remember asking, 'Is she okay? Is she freaked out? I didn't know [Alisha] very well at the beginning and I didn't know if [she was] going to be comfortable or not. They were like, 'Yeah, she's a little spooked.'

"But as soon as she walked in, we were all like, 'Oh my god'. It was the coolest, and I think that helped her relax a little bit. Then she got used to [it] and was like, 'This is me'. It was an awesome look."

Abigail releases in cinemas on April 19. For more, check out our list of the best horror movies of all time, or our guide to the most exciting upcoming horror movies heading our way. 

Amy West

I am an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering all things TV and film across our Total Film and SFX sections. Elsewhere, my words have been published by the likes of Digital Spy, SciFiNow, PinkNews, FANDOM, Radio Times, and Total Film magazine.