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Movie Review: 'Abigail'

Marketing campaign ruins kid vampire flick, Abigail.

By Sean PatrickPublished about a month ago 5 min read

Abigail (2024)

Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett

Written by Stephen Shields, Guy Busick

Starring Melissa Barrera, Kathryn Newton, Dan Stevens, Kevin Durand, Alisha Weir

Release Date April 19th, 2024

Published April 20th, 2024

Abigail 0pens on a heist. We meet a series of criminals as they are preparing to break into a home. Joey (Melissa Barrera) is picked up by Frank (Dan Stevens) and Peter (Kevin Durand), they wear all black and put on masks. In a different vehicle at a different location, Dean (Angus Cloud), is talking with Sammy (Kathryn Newton), who is hacking the security of the home where they just dropped off Rickles (Will Catlett) who has a rifle and positions himself on a nearby rooftop to watch the home that is about to be robbed.

If you have not noticed the naming convention for these characters, it's The Rat Pack, Frank Sinatra's group of friends who ran Hollywood and Las Vegas in the 50s and 60s. These are the aliases chosen by the group's benefactor, Mr. Lambert (Giancarlo Esposito). But this is not an ordinary heist. You see, the target isn't money or a hard drive filled with crypto or ancient art worth millions of dollars on the black market. Rather, the loot in this heist is a little girl named Abigail (Alisha Weir). Abigail is the daughter of a very rich, very powerful man and the goal is to ransom the child for millions of dollars.

You don't have to be a student of filmmaking 101 to guess that things do not go as planned and that things are not as they appear. Sadly, and quite unfortunately for the movie, the trailer has already told you what the twist is. Indeed, the marketing has done nothing to hide the fact that Abigail is no ordinary little girl. Rather, she's a vampire, and ancient one at that. The whole scheme is an elaborate plan to allow young Abigail to hunt her food, in this case our group of hired criminals. Why? Because, as the commercials tell you, she likes to play with her food.

I can't really review Abigail, if I am being honest, and I don't anyone really can. The marketing of Abigail has spoiled the whole movie. There are a couple of mysterious ideas remaining but none are as important or impactful as the true nature of Abigail. Indeed, it appears that the filmmakers approached making the movie as if we would not already know that Abigail is the film's big bad. The film uses dialogue to explain that Abigail's father has a legendary enforcer who kills unlike any human being on the planet. He kills with a stealth and brutality that has become an urban legend.

The plot proceeds then to perhaps convince you that this enforcer has found their location and is about to destroy our Rat Pack John-Wick-Style, and rescue the girl on behalf of his employer. But, since we've seen the trailers and the posters and the commercials, we already know that the killer is Abigail. The building of tension, the suspense, the surprise twist, is gone, it's meaningless and it takes the air out of the entire movie. I feel as if I can't actually review the movie because I can't see it as the filmmakers seemingly intended it. The marketing has robbed us all of the actual experience of Abigail.

So, what's left? The kills? The staging of the death scenes? All of this is... fine. Competently shot and well performed by the actors involved. It's good enough. I find it hard to get excited by anything Abigail because it's less fun knowing everything going in. There are few surprises left and aside from Melissa Barrera's performance, nothing else really stands out about Abigail. Barrera is the heart of the movie. Her backstory is sympathetic and she proves to have a strong moral compass even as her choice to become a criminal and a kidnapper got her into this mess. Her relationship to Abigail is well built and her motherly chemistry with Alisha Weir would have made the big twist even more fraught, dramatic and intriguing.

But, thanks to the film's marketing team, we will never know what that actually felt like. I am complaining a lot about the marketing of Abigail and that is perhaps also reflective of the overall weakness of the movie, if it were a better movie, it might be able to overcome having the twist spoiled. Fair point, but since I never got to see the movie as the filmmakers appear to have intended it, I can't really say. Thus I can't say it's really bad or good. I can identify positives and negatives about the movie, but I feel I can't judge the movie as a whole in any fair way.

If you are a fan of actress Melissa Barrera, she's doing good work here. If you are fan of vampire movies, this isn't a particularly good vampire movie. The film tries to subvert the well-known tropes of vampire movies while accentuating other aspects of the lore, but it all adds up to muddling the vampire lore in a seeming attempt to obfuscate and confound the audience. Abigail's powers are nebulous and hard to pin down. The filmmakers make her powers and her weaknesses intentionally vague so that they can use different powers as needed as a screenwriting crutch. It ends up being too muddy and incomprehensible by the end, to the point where I wasn't exactly sure what happened to one of our main characters at the end.

So, as I mentioned, positives and negatives. The negatives might outweigh the positives as I didn't care for the writing, especially in the third act, and the climax where it's hard to tell exactly what is going on as characters make choices that feel like the convenience of a screenwriter who didn't know what to do next to make it all make sense. That said, what if I had not had the movie completely spoiled by the marketing? Would the twist of Abigail's true nature saved the movie? I will never get to know that. Thus, I find the experience of Abigail unsatisfying but I can't blame the filmmakers entirely. The third act would likely still be a problem for me, but I might have been more forgiving if the twist had worked on me. But, again, I will never know that.

Fund my archive of more than 20 years and more than 2000 movie reviews at SeanattheMovies.blogspot.com. Find my modern review archive on my Vocal Profile, linked here. Follow me on Twitter at PodcastSean. Follow the archive blog on Twitter at SeanattheMovies. Listen to me talk about movies on the I Hate Critics Movie Review Podcast. If you have enjoyed what you have read, consider subscribing to my writing on Vocal. If you'd like to support my writing, you can do so by making a monthly pledge or by leaving a one time tip. Thanks!

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About the Creator

Sean Patrick

Hello, my name is Sean Patrick He/Him, and I am a film critic and podcast host for the I Hate Critics Movie Review Podcast I am a voting member of the Critics Choice Association, the group behind the annual Critics Choice Awards.

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  • Alex H Mittelman about a month ago

    Great review!

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