‘Abigail’: Beware of That Bloody Ballerina!

‘Abigail’: Beware of That Bloody Ballerina!

©Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Welcome back, bloodsucking fiend! It is always a (guilty) pleasure to return to a vampire movie where the undead is an old-fashioned, terrifying thirsty killer. Even if the dark humor behind the whole production makes Abigail some kind of horror comedy, nonetheless the main character – a young ballerina who plays a wicked game with her victims before trying to slay them – is shaped way closer to the classic vampire figure, a huge plus in my opinion. The truth is, except for a few examples (Bran Stoker’s Dracula by Francis Ford Coppola, The Addiction by Abel Ferrara, or Only Lovers Left Alive by Jim Jarmusch) when the vampire becomes a romantic or metaphoric character, something goes missing. Most of the time it’s the sheer, irrational joy of being scared. 

Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, Abigail is the reboot of the classic Dracula’s Daughter (1936), adjusted to the contemporary audience’s taste. The screenplay by Stephen Shields and Guy Busick provides a gripping start, the way some pulp crime-movies from the Nineties had, first of all – and it couldn’t be otherwise – Reservoir Dogs by Quentin Tarantino. Once the plot brings all the characters in the main setting, the usual old house full of dark corners, the mouse trap game respects all the genre’s rules providing a lot of fun. Abigail is in fact quite entertaining, delivers the right rhythm of storytelling, builds characters who are both funny and in a couple of cases acceptable humans, and most importantly it is actually scary.

The Directors quite soon find the right formula: if you want to really experience “Evil”, you have to stare at it. All the close-ups of Alisha Weir/Abigail’s eyes become little by little unsettling until they turn completely frightening. The young actress is totally capable of incarnating first the double face of the monster, its innocence mixed with soulless instinct.

Abigail 2

©Courtesy of Universal Pictures

On the other side then we have a group of criminals who pretty soon become victims of the vampire, a bunch of roles who are decently portrayed by Kevin Durand, Giancarlo Esposito, and Kathryn Newton. The soul of Abigail is in the end the powerful chemistry between Dan Stevens and Melissa Barrera. The actor delivers a performance that turns out to be charismatic, repulsive, and hilarious. The actress can be totally considered one of the true, contemporary “Scream Queens”: she is reliable, capable of portraying the depth of her character, and ready to fight without becoming unbelievable. In the end, the audience has no choice but to root for Joey, mostly because of Melissa Barrera’s performance. 

Even if the 109 minutes of the movie are a little bit too much – especially the showdown could have been a little shorter – Abigail is basically everything you want to obtain from a mainstream horror movie: a plot that actually drives you into the story, at least three compelling characters, the right amount of tension without exceeding in jump scares or cheap-thrills, gallons of fake blood which guarantee the liberating gory effect. Abigail is all of this, a crazy mix of horror and crime-movie with a splash of dark comedy that delivers sheer entertainment. Nowadays it seems pretty difficult to ask something more from a vampire-movie…

Abigail 3

©Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Rate: B

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Here’s the trailer of the film.

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