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El Estoque

The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

‘Abigail’ bleeds its tired premise dry

Predictable plot, shallow characters and juvenile scripting hammer the last nail in the coffin
Abigail (Alisha Weir) dances onstage while covered in her victims’ blood. | Universal Pictures

Spoilers for “Abigail” ahead

Following a successful year for horror movies at the box office in 2023, Universal Studios’ latest horror film, “Abigail,” introduced itself to theaters on April 19. Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, the mastermind behind the latest “Scream” films, and featuring a cast of seasoned horror movie veterans like Melissa Barrera, the team behind “Abigail” knows how to deliver the scares. Combined with Universal’s $28 million budget, “Abigail” was foreshadowed to be a riveting, bloodsucking thriller. In a way, it lived up to those expectations — the movie was a bloodbath and unquestionably sucked. 

The plot follows a group of six hired kidnappers on a mission to ransom Abigail, the daughter of a very wealthy man. To collect their $50 million payout, they must keep her safe in an abandoned house for 24 hours. However, once they realize who Abigail’s father is — Kristof Lazar, this movie’s version of Dracula and, according to the film, the “Antichrist himself” — they no longer want any part in the scheme and try to escape, only to find that the house has been electronically sealed.

Abigail (Alisha Weir) viciously attacks Sammy (Kathryn Newton) after the humans’ plan to hunt down the child vampire backfires. | Universal Pictures

From there, all hell breaks loose. Abigail transforms from an innocent child ballerina into a bloodthirsty vampire, stalking her kidnappers throughout the house as they try their best to survive and kill her. The movie is full of anticipatory pans and uncomfortable stretches of silence, but it immediately falls into a predictable rhythm of jumpscares. The thrills, while initially effective due to shock value, are quickly revealed to be little more than cheap crutches for a lackluster script.

Instead of depending on the audience’s attachment to the characters to build tension, “Abigail” relies on excessive thudding sound effects and gore to a tiring extent. The audience is given no reason to sympathize with any of the cast, so when they’re introduced, it’s clear that they mean little more than dead meat for Abigail to feast on in increasingly repetitive ways. The characters are exclusively one-dimensional, like fleshy containers for every worn-out horror trope — they’re only valuable to the story when they inevitably explode in a supernova of blood.

Graphic | Jillian Ju & Universal Pictures

Perhaps the movie repeatedly turns its characters into puddles of blood because that’s the one thing it’s sure it can get right. From headless bodies to flying vampires, “Abigail” provides some remarkable special effects. The film crew paid special attention to detail, and nowhere during the movie does the action feel cheap or gimmicky. The audience also easily feels Abigail’s attacks, as the impact of her blows and bites are brilliantly shot. However, this proves to be one of the only highlights of the movie, and it only goes downhill from here.

While the premises for each character are initially promising, “Abigail” can’t decide on a tone to take with the cast. The movie bizarrely refuses to embrace their shallowness, instead electing to provide them with serious backstories in a lazy attempt to garner sympathy — the main protagonist, Joey, is a former drug addict with an abandoned son, and another character, Peter, became a mafia grunt after being bullied as a child. Rather than fully committing to either treating its characters like horror props or like real people, “Abigail” chooses a confusing middle ground that renders the characters ineffective at enhancing the plot.

The acting is the most competent aspect of the movie, but the stilted dialogue limits the cast from achieving anything with their performance. Characters have charming moments here and there — Kathryn Newton plays an airheaded, sequin-wearing hacker — but it’s as if the writers are deliberately trying to sabotage their own project by writing in the laziest exposition possible. The cast shows promise when they’re allowed to bring their characters to life, yet the script insists on piling them with unnatural lines that only serve to spout exposition and hemorrhage the audience’s investment.

Sammy (Kathryn Newton), Joey (Melissa Barrera), Peter (Kevin Durand) and Frank (Dan Stevens) are part of an ever-dwindling cast of kidnappers, but are betrayed first and foremost by the atrocious script. | Universal Pictures

Many problems stem from the writing implosion the movie experiences during the third act. The initially simple premise of a vampire girl hunting characters down one by one is thrown out the window, and the movie transforms into a painful game of infection tag. The film stops killing off characters, and instead, turns many into vampires against the backdrop of an excruciatingly confusing power struggle. However, despite getting bitten by a vampire just like the others, Joey never transforms due to a convenient excuse — it turns out that Joey’s plot armor is the only strong part of the movie.

“Abigail” boasts endless plot twists and thrills, but both fall into predictable cliches that are better served by more competent films. Even its distinctive touch — the addition of ballet as a motif — is integrated poorly. Abigail’s attacks are interjected by random pirouettes and leaps, creating an undue comedic effect that completely downplays the violence onscreen. While it’s implied that Abigail uses ballet as a means of coping with her absent father, this idea is never explored thoroughly, giving the audience the impression that the writers smashed two incompatible identities — vampire and ballerina — together and didn’t think too hard about it.

“Abigail” is a movie that struggles to carve out a niche in a genre that is already saturated with better movies. Instead of being an effective thriller, it trips all over its feet as it waffles between campy horror and serious tension. Vampire films have been a staple of cinema for decades, and all that’s truly needed is a well-developed storyline with a scary, blood-draining monster. Yet, “Abigail” fails miserably — the only thing it manages to drain is the audience’s will to keep watching.

RATING: 1.5/5

About the Contributors
Jillian Ju
Jillian Ju, Staff Writer
Jillian Ju is a sophomore and staff writer for El Estoque. In their free time, they enjoy writing about complicated people in cars, collecting earrings, and lying down.
Benjamin Zhang
Benjamin Zhang, Staff Writer
Benjamin is currently a sophomore and a staff writer for El Estoque. In his free time, he likes to play soccer, collect vinyls and critique bad movies.
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