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ABIGAIL’s ANGST

ABIGAIL opened in theaters April 19th, 2024. Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (Radio Silence), the film is said by several sources to be an homage to Universal’s 1937 DRACULA’S DAUGHTER, but that character was an adult woman, and this eleven-year-old vampire/girl seems more akin to Kirsten Dunst’s famous Claudia in INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE.

Costing close to thirty million to produce, the film features an innovative premise: what if you were hired to kidnap an 11-year-old girl—only to find out that she is neither innocent nor defenseless? You realize you have taken a vampire to her own home/lair just as the doors and windows are (apparently magically) sealed shut around you.

And all that happens right after you realize the ensemble cast of kidnappers of which are a member cannot get along.

This is a near-perfect formula for horror, but the ensuing movie is more rote than remarkable.  A lot more could have been done to develop Abigail’s story of being adopted (read: turned) and then abandoned. Instead, the plot focuses primarily on the less-interesting background and predictable demise of each of the evil henchmen (and women).

As the pre-teen victim, Abigail (Alisha Weir) shines. She appears genuinely frightened and faint of heart until that ruse is exposed and her true feints appear--as in expert fighting moves!

An over-indulged but a bit-neglected daughter of a powerful underworld boss (read: vampire), Abigail orchestrates revenge on individuals she feels have wronged her father. This is done both to amuse herself and to regain the attention and approbation of the father she feels ignores her.

Other strong performances include those delivered by Joey (Melissa Barrera) and Peter (Kevin Durand), the heavy, who is supposed to be big on brawn and small on brains, but who surprisingly also shows plenty of heart.

That the gang of poorly trained and contentious misfits seems unsuited to the task of kidnapping and hostage-holding from the start should raise alarm bells. The plot is skimpy, with several twists seemingly designed more to lengthen the feature than to enrich the storyline.

The attempt to make the film richer with a redemption subplot for Joey, who has abandoned her own child but who bonds with Abigail--as both frightened pre-teen ballerina and vengeful vampire--also feels false and thus falls a bit flat.

The amount of blood and gore is excessive. One body’s explosion fills a ballroom with fluid, and Abigail’s dance with a headless corpse seems more distasteful than humorous.

More shock than suspense and more parody than comedy, the movie is guaranteed fun if one watches horror for jump scares and shock value, but it could have been a better film. The film has completed its theater run and is available for VOD rental.

 

Reviewed by M. L. Byrd

 

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