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‘Abigail’ Shows Us How To Reinvent An Old Story

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The lore and history of vampires is a long and extensive one, and stories revolving around them are almost never ending. Some folks are total suckers (no pun intended) for teen vampire stories like the Twilight Saga or The Vampire Diaries television series. Others prefer the likes of mature stories like the True Blood series or Anne Rice’s iconic, bloodthirsty novels. No matter your pick, there’s probably a vampire story for everyone, even if you don’t think they’re your style. And luckily, it’s not all about Dracula and his escapades, as we find out in Abigail, a new film from directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett

Abigail follows a group of anonymous kidnappers tasked with kidnapping a young girl whom they intend to hold for ransom in a secluded mansion. But when they come to learn that the girl, Abigail, is the daughter of a wealthy crime lord, all hell breaks loose. The kidnappers are sent scrambling for their lives when it becomes clear that Abigail isn’t trapped with them; they’re trapped with Abigail and her thirst for blood. The film’s ensemble consists of Alisha Weir as the titular character alongside Melissa Barrera, Dan Stevens, Kathryn Newton, Kevin Durand, Will Catlett, the late Angus Cloud, and Giancarlo Esposito.

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(left to right) Kathryn Newton as Sammy, Melissa Barrera as Joey, Kevin Durand as Peter, and Dan Stevens as Frank in “ABIGAIL”. Photo: Universal Pictures.

It’s important to note that Abigail is a reimagining of the 1936 film, “Dracula’s Daughter” which was a part of the Universal Classic Monsters collection that existed between the 1930’s and 1950’s. And while this reimagining allows for modern references to exist, it still maintains an environment that is almost lacking in technology. Imagine being stuck for an entire 24 hours without your phone, and without any connection or awareness of the outside world. And to make circumstances even more challenging, there is anonymity amongst the people you’re working with, despite being trapped together. It sounds easy, but could you survive if the girl you kidnapped is out for blood? I won’t give much away but I gather you can deduce a conclusion of your own in those circumstances.

At first glance, the film seems like an odd combination of elements and you might think it’s trying too hard to be different. Think about it: a film that mashes together the mysterious yet carnal nature of vampires with the elegance and grace of ballet. It’s an odd combo, no? But when you think about the various vampires we’ve seen throughout stage productions, books, on-screen media, it kind of makes sense. They can be classy and they can be full of mystery and intrigue. And let’s be honest: they can even afford ridiculously expensive and massive mansions that we can’t. And while that’s all good and fun, there’s always a way to add a little unique flair to a thrilling story like Abigail.

Melissa Barrera as Sammy in “ABIGAIL”. Photo: Universal Pictures.

As over the top as it is, the film pulls off its eccentricity with ease by staying committed to the bit. Creepy little girl? Check. Characters you love to hate and characters you hate to love? Check. Excessive blood splatters? Check. And best of all, forget about all those vampire tropes we know like warding them off with garlic (or was it onions?) and eliminating them with a wooden stake. The film takes special liberties in its approach to the supernatural beings by eliminating common saving graces for our cast of characters. And that only makes for an interesting twist.

The action and suspense of the film is noteworthy, particularly when it is set to the sound of music, whether it’s ballet or heavy metal. The action is demonstrated almost as a dance, including precision ballet movements throughout the film. However, despite its creativity, the final fight scene of the film is repetitive, dragging a lot longer than needed as it makes you want to put up a sign asking them to wrap it up. That aside, suspense is well-balanced with the comedic elements of the film. There are plenty of tense moments that aren’t bombarded strictly by jokes. And while at times, there’s a lack of sense of urgency, this only applies to some characters whose priorities lie elsewhere and is only fitting for those characters. And that’s very much thanks to the performances of our whole cast.

(left to right) Alisha Weir as Abigail and Kathryn Newton as Sammy in “ABIGAIL”. Photo: Universal Pictures.

Alisha Weir is perfect as Abigail, giving us a performance that alternates from sweet and frightened to vicious and conniving. After all, she might be out for blood but she’s also a young girl. And even young vampiric girls need love and attention. However, we have to hand it to the rest of the cast who made the viewing experience incredibly entertaining. Melissa Barrera remains the ultimate scream queen and ideal leading lady for horror films with her role as “Joey”, a woman who grows close to Abigail. If there’s ever a character to side with, it’s her, and that’s all thanks to Barrera. She manages to take the backstory of her character and turn it into something we can sympathize or even empathize with. Joey has tough skin but a soft heart, and Barrera executes both sides of the role perfectly.

Meanwhile, we have plenty of comedic relief and laughable moments with the rest of the cast. Kathryn Newton as “Sammy” is hilarious and pulls off the role of a ditzy but well-off and tech savvy girl. Kevin Durand stands out as “Peter”, your typical man of muscle with practically zero intelligent thoughts, and feels like someone we’ve all known before. And Dan Stevens continues to capture the hearts of audiences, this time with his role as “Frank” who is sarcastic and quick-witted, everything Stevens is no stranger to.

Angus Cloud as Dean in “ABIGAIL”. Photo: Universal Pictures.

There isn’t much to be said about Giancarlo Esposito except that he is not at all what he seems. But then again, when has he ever played a character that’s beyond predictable? Meanwhile, Will Catlett as “Rickles”, a former military man who doesn’t trust a soul, is barely given much time to shine. And to be honest, it doesn’t hurt the story but it also would not have hurt to see a bit more of him. Lastly, the late Angus Cloud’s final role as “Dean” is a small yet memorable one. And one thing is for certain: we can at least say that the last thing Cloud did for us was make us laugh.

Alisha Weir as Abigail in “ABIGAIL”. Photo: Universal Pictures.

Abigail is a bloodthirsty and hellish ride that may not be for everyone, and it may not be what people expect it to be. But that’s the best part. With all the talk of original stories not being available, I can tell you that’s not true. Abigail is a shining example of how to take a very old story that hasn’t been touched in a long time, and reimagine it into something totally fresh and fun. It may be over the top, it may be out of the box, it may not be anything you thought it would be. But that shouldn’t deter you from giving this one a chance, especially when there’s more than meets the eye. And with Abigail, that’s certainly the case.

 Samosa Rating:  

Abigail receives 4.5 out of 5 Samosas.

Abigail is now playing in theaters. 
Runtime: 1h 49m

If you want even more film discussions, reviews, or just some good old recommendations, be sure to follow @samosasandpopcorn on TikTok!

Pooja Chand
Pooja Chand
Known on other platforms as Samosas and Popcorn, Pooja is a movie enthusiast topped with sprinkles of her love for TV. She can typically be found watching anything from the latest blockbuster movie to a feel good anime, and is always ready to start the discussion on movies and TV so you don't have to.

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