Movie Review: “Abigail”

Abigail is the most recent film from Radio Silence, an aspiring film duo that has already made their presence known in the horror genre, having successfully fought an uphill battle by directing and releasing Scream (2022) and Scream VI a year apart. Although the Scream had a fumble or two (mostly Scream 3, in my opinion), it was considered by many to be sacred ground. Although Kevin Williamson was the writer of the franchise, every film before them had been directed by Wes Craven. Before Craven’s death, the series had been consistently good slasher entertainment (I mostly love the series across the board). I believe that 2022’s Scream not only succeeded (both critically and financially), but breathed new life in a franchise I believed would never return to form. I believe Scream 6 was an improvement on that film and sits comfortably as my third favorite film of the franchise.

Plain and simple, Radio Silence has had one of the most promising runs for horror filmmakers in recent years.

Abigail sees Melissa Barrera realign with Radio Silence, releasing this film almost exactly a year after Scream VI (making them year-to-year-to-year, which is an impressive streak for both her as an actor and them as a director). This film also stars Kathryn Newton, a new actor herself, who has had a couple notable outings in horror already – she was the protagonist of Lisa Frankenstein and Freaky. She is a charming actor and although Lisa Frankenstein wasn’t perfect, it showed a level of charisma and enthusiasm that made me excited for when she lands the perfect breakthrough film.

Unfortunately, for everyone involved, although Abigail received positive reviews from critics and moviegoers alike, it was a disappointment at the box office when the dust settled. Incidentally, I believe you can likely pair Lisa Frankenstein and Abigail together. They are both Universal Pictures deeply rooted in the past, specifically that of Universal Monster movies. Lisa Frankenstein wears its inspiration on its sleeve, but Abigail’s inspiration may not call out to you. Abigail is a loose remake of the 1936 film (I will spare naming the film for a reason that likely won’t matter to you).

I don’t know about all of you, but I love what Universal has been doing with their Universal Monster movies in recent years, even if the results have been mixed-to-negative so far. For those who haven’t caught on, after their pitched Dark Universe failed to catch on after The Mummy cost them money. They did a course correction by letting Leigh Whannell direct The Invisible Man, which was fantastic and did fantastic at the box office. Everything looked great. Then, they released Renfield and The Last Voyage of the Demeter. I haven’t yet watched The Demeter, but I did watch Renfield. As excited as I was for the film and as much as I wanted to like it, it left a lot to be desired – the make-up effects and seeing Nicholas Cage as Count Dracula was worth the price of admission though. Both films were massive flops at the box office and Universal is likely still licking their wounds over them. Even if I was a little disappointed in Renfield and am a little uninterested in Demeter, I really do appreciate the direction Universal has taken with the older licenses. Rather than try to fit round-pegs in square-holes, they have been bold and ambitious with their releases. They could have easily tried to wedge more films into a Marvel Cinematic Universe stylized horror-action hybrid, and, instead, they have actually, on some level, given me exactly what I wanted.

On the bright side, although Lisa Frankenstein and Abigail did disappoint at the box office, they weren’t the kind of box office disasters that either Renfield or The Last Voyage of the Demeter were. Those films had crazy high budgets, but Abigail was made for twenty-eight million and looks like it will finish with around forty million worldwide when it is all finished. It isn’t enough to break-even when you account for how much the theater gets of the ticket sales and whatever Universal spent on marketing, but it might have a second life on home-video and streaming that might effect how Universal looks at it. The same is possible for Lisa Frankenstein (its budget was 13 million and its box office sales were just shy of 10 million).

The premise of Abigail is simple and straightforward. Six criminals are tasked with abducting a small girl. Their job seems cut-and-dry, but, once they uncover the truth surrounding their predicament, we find out why this is a horror film.

The problem with Abigail that always meant it was fighting an uphill battle is its concept. If you saw the trailers for Abigail already, you know what I am talking about. I always think it is a little dramatic when people complain about trailers showing too much of the film, but you can really tell that the marketing and the filmmakers were at odds with this film. The trailer outright tells you the film’s twist. When you watch the film, you can really see that the film doesn’t want you to already know the twist. Not only is it not revealed until fairly late into the film, but it deliberately is trying to throw you off the scent and toy with you. This sucks, because it ruins the surprise, but I also understand why Universal may have felt pressured to have a hook for the marketing of the film. This film, at least, from a practical perspective, would have worked best as a film made with a Blumhouse budget and an intentionally ambiguous marketing campaign.

If you have managed to come this far without knowing Abigail’s twist, I congratulate you and I advise you to keep it that way until you watch (I won’t spoil the film in this review). The film isn’t ruined by knowing, but I can tell you it will be a lot more fun if you can go in blind.

Although don’t expect for Abigail to reinvent the wheel on any of the genres and sub-genres that it blends, it is absolutely a bonkers, balls-to-the-wall fun film.

Melissa Barrera keeps the film grounded as the voice of reason, and it is a role I think she is a natural for. By the end, I would argue I was more behind her as a character and actor than I was across Scream and Scream VI. She does really well in all three as a “final girl” type. Kathryn Newton offers comedic relief and steals the show with a fun, energetic performance. I am endlessly entertained by her in this film and I would argue that this, paired with Lisa Frankenstein, is my pitch for why she is a horror legend in the making if she so chooses. Alisha Weir delivers a performance beyond her years, and will definitely have eyes on her for years to come. She’s a fucking delight, honest and truly, and one of my personal instances of a child actor being used in this way. Giancarlo Esposito also has a role in this film (you know, Gus from Breaking Bad), he is suitably good in his role, which plays to his wheelhouse (typecast?) as an intimidating, but soft-talking mob boss (albeit with a new added wrinkle), a role that is appreciated, albeit one-note (this note, to be exact).  

The cinematography is clean and polished, with proper lighting and a fun setting, backed by moody music and slick pacing. It is bloody, it has brevity, and it is exactly the type of film I want more of. The humor, for some, will be hit and miss. I laughed a handful of times, but there were also a couple of jokes that didn’t land. That said, I found it hit more than it missed, and even when it slacked, the mayhem never did.

In summation, go watch Abigail. It’s a very fun, entertaining film, and, more importantly, I want more like it, something that won’t happen unless more people do. The film may not have been a success strictly by box office standards (on that note, although it would have made more sense to shoot for a smaller budget, you really can see every penny on this screen with this one, and I am grateful we received the film that we did), but, for the cast involved, and for Radio Silence, this is a real feather in their cap. And, for me, this is the most fun I have had with a Universal Monster Movie since The Invisible Man. 


Rating: – 3.5 out of 5.0