Abigail review: "A blood-bomb of fun that needs more narrative meat"

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

GamesRadar+ Verdict

Despite strong casting – Weir especially – and satisfyingly volcanic splatter, blood runs thicker than story in this fun but undernourished shocker.

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"The endings are often a little bit gory," sang Alisha Weir in Naughty, a tentpole tune from 2022’s Matilda the Musical. Graduating from bookworm to blood-sucking ballerina, Weir causes naughtier, gorier trouble in this horror from Radio Silence’s Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (Scream 2022), a blood-bomb of fun with a key caveat. From the reveals about Weir’s title vampire on, Abigail barely offers more surprises than Matilda’s riff on pre-existing material.

A kind of haunted-heist movie with fangs, it begins at an elegant clip with a criminal gang in the middle of a job for Giancarlo Esposito’s Lambert, who names them after the Rat Pack (Frank, etc) for secrecy. Their mission? To kidnap ‘Tiny Dancer’ and hold her at a country pile for 24 hours, awaiting the ransom.

Since we already know the girl’s perfect plié hides less graceful tendencies, the directors do well to sustain tension and interest. Fine casting helps, with Dan Stevens’ oily villain, Kevin Durand’s heavy, Kathryn Newton’s techie, William Catlett’s surveillance pro and the late Angus Cloud’s driver scrubbing up well. Despite a one-note role, Melissa Barrera is likeable as the audience hook. And Weir gives a terrifically sly, then savage, turn as the girl with all the gore-guzzling gifts. And a face-melting shriek.

The pleasures here initially lie less in surprise than in suspense, as the Alien-style camera probes the labyrinthine mansion’s blind corners in anticipation of Abigail’s attack. Blood gushes freely as she shows some impressively nasty gnashers and starts shredding the kidnappers for their misdeeds – and their idiocy. While Radio Silence hit the expected genre beats proficiently, the criminals’ stupidity feels frustratingly rote, not least when they fail to deploy sharpened stakes at the most opportune moment. The pat revelations about their pasts stir little interest, too.

The Silence duo drum up some decent second-half ideas, including meme-able, M3GAN-grade dance scenes and an undead ‘puppeteering’ routine. The deaths are exuberantly grisly and explosive, too, the sound mix relishing every gooey squelch.

Yet as predictable twists and an underused final cameo arrive, all the blood isn’t enough to cover up the nagging shortfalls of final-act invention. When Abigail attempts to justify her actions, it’s with a ‘whatever’ shrug. OK, she’s a girl – give or take a few centuries – who just wants to have fun. But the filmmakers needed to bring more narrative meat to the messy massacre you surely saw coming.

Abigail is in US theaters and UK cinemas from April 19. For more scares, here's our guide to all of the upcoming horror movies on the way.

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Freelance writer

Kevin Harley is a freelance journalist with bylines at Total Film, Radio Times, The List, and others, specializing in film and music coverage. He can most commonly be found writing movie reviews and previews at GamesRadar+.