Abigail Review

A crew are hired to kidnap a little girl (Weir) and keep her in a secure location. The little girl is a vampire.

by Kim Newman |
Updated on
Release Date:

19 Apr 2024

Original Title:


In 1907, twist-in-the-tale specialist O. Henry published The Ransom Of Red Chief, a short story about kidnappers whose victim is so obnoxious they wind up paying the brat’s family to take him back. It’s been repeatedly adapted, officially and unofficially, including versions by Yasujiro Ozu and Howard Hawks. Abigail offers a new spin. Twelve-year-old ballerina — Alisha Weir, in a ferocious how-not-to-be-typecast-forever-as-Matilda-from-Matilda-The-Musical turn — is actually an ancient, bloodthirsty, rage-fuelled vampire with extreme daddy issues.


It’s slightly an issue that trailers and pre-publicity not only reveal the end-of-the-first-act twist but sell it as the high concept. The film, wittily scripted by Stephen Shields (The Hole In The Ground) and Guy Busick, teases effectively for half an hour. It’s a heavy hint that the theme music, accompanied by a solo ballet turn, is that snatch of Swan Lake heard at the beginning of Dracula in 1931, but the first act then plays like a shadowy riff on Reservoir Dogs. Mastermind Lambert (Giancarlo Esposito) teams up flawed experts to pull off a kidnapping, insisting they not know anything about each other and giving them Rat Pack code names.

A welcome sister to the Orphan and M3GAN in a trinity of tween-impersonating killing machines.

Smarty-pants medic Joey (Melissa Barrera) does a Sherlock Holmes bit, deducing that team leader Frank (Dan Stevens) is an ex-cop, hacker Sammy (Kathryn Newton) is a rich kid rebel, muscle Peter (Kevin Durand) is Quebecois and a secret softie, sniper Rickles (William Catlett) is ex-military, and wheel man Dean (Angus Cloud) is a sociopath. Enough is going on with the fractious gang they don’t notice Abigail has been brought to her own house as a hide-out. The creepy old mansion — with secret passageways, a basement corpse depository and metal ‘you’re-fucked’ window shutters — is a death trap.

At gunpoint, Abigail admits she’s the daughter of a big shot whose fearsome rep suggests a cross between Keyser Soze and Dracula. Eventually, she loses patience with pretending to be human and goes into an athletic biting frenzy. Co-directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett made the recent Scream revivals (with Barrera) but landed on the horror map with Ready Or Not (scripted by Busick); here, they revisit the chase-around-a-spooky-mansion scenario, with smart, desperate chatter and gruesome splatstick comedy. Once the vampire card is on the table, there are several more surprises to spring. Future horror scholars can ponder why audiences in our era were so terrified of monsters shaped like little girls, but Abigail is a welcome sister to the Orphan and M3GAN in a trinity of tween-impersonating killing machines.

Tossing a malicious vampire kid among squabbling, not-exactly-un-dangerous humans is a recipe for a wickedly enjoyable thrill ride. One of the messiest vampire movies ever made, and winningly so.
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