‘Abigail’ movie review: Universal’s vampire flick is all style and no substance

A scene from ‘Abigail’

The team that brought us the updates to the classic Scream and the hit Ready or Not, now present us with a supposed high-fashion horror flick, Abigail. Regrettably, it delivers a diluted mix of vampire clichés and lackluster comedy that leaves audiences yearning for something more robust and provocative.

The story kicks off with potential, as a group of offbeat thieves take on a bold kidnapping, only to face unexpected horrors. The get-go signals an existential quandary for Abigail. It teeters between reimagined classic horror, a caper, a creature-laden terror, and a feeble stab at resurrecting Universal’s flagging Monsterverse. The outcome is an awkward mesh of outdated horror silhouetted against the overworked horror tropes of today.

The portrayal of its namesake character, Abigail, virtually prompts a posthumous outcry from Tchaikovsky. Alisha Weir tries valiantly to breath undead life into her vampire ballerina portrayal, but her efforts cannot save a character that skates too close to being a mere spoof. Her attempts at dark humor and psychological manipulation fall flat, and we find ourselves nostalgically wishing for vampires fashioned more after Bram Stoker than a balletic performance in Swan Lake.

Abigail (English)

Director: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett

Cast: Alisha Weir, Melissa Barrera, Dan Stevens, Kathryn Newton, Will Catlett, Kevin Durand, Angus Cloud, and Giancarlo Esposito

Runtime: 109 minutes

Storyline: A motley crew of would-be kidnappers abduct a young girl, only to discover she’s a ferocious vampire.

The secondary cast does slightly better with a blend of wooden and cringe-worthy performances. Attempts at humor miss the mark and end up delivering lines reeking of staleness rather than wit. Melissa Barrera’s effort to serve as the film’s ethical fulcrum is unconvincing, while Dan Stevens is buried under a pile of villain clichés.

Angus Cloud’s final role is a disappointing reduction to a dimwit, a mere shadow of his role in Euphoria. Even Giancarlo Esposito, whose presence generally adds depth, here, merely highlights the film’s squandered opportunities.

Alisha Weir as Abigail

Alisha Weir in the lead role of Abigail

Abigail does offer atmospheric touches, thanks to Aaron Morton of The First Omen, whose camera work gives the gothic settings a certain eerie allure. Nonetheless, it’s marred by overused gore and jump scares that fail to impress.

In summation, Abigail is a movie with much flair but little essence. While there may be brief spurts of entertainment, they’re quickly overshadowed by a multitude of flaws. Abigail ultimately serves as a stark reminder of what transpires when originality plays second fiddle to commercial strategies.

When the end credits begin, viewers may feel a twinge of regret for what might have come from a more audacious and inventive approach. Unless you have a penchant for cinematic masochism, better to find a richer film to sink your fangs into.

Abigail is presently showing in theaters.

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