Spoiling Yourself — Abigail

William J Hammon
7 min readMay 4, 2024


I feel like every other post I’m starting off a review by apologizing for general lateness. I saw the new horror film Abigail about two weeks ago, but have held off on rating it until now. There’s no extenuating circumstance. I’ve just been tired. Even today, I basically checked out of work midway through the day (thank God I work from home when I’m not on set) and just conked out for four hours. I get a decent amount of sleep every night, but for some reason I’ve just felt exhausted for the last month and a half.

This has resulted in a bit of a backlog for me, which will get slightly bigger over the next week or two as I watch more stuff, but I will make a concerted effort to catch everything up and get back on my normal pace. I thank you all for sticking with me, and just know that I’m not going on hiatus or anything. Think of it like an extended tease.

Speaking of teases, this is a good way to segue into Abigail itself. On the whole, this is an absolutely rip roaring bit of gory vampire fun. Spiritually similar to the 1936 film, Dracula’s Daughter, the film actively delights in its premise of a young vampire girl turning the tables on her would-be captors and as she puts it, “playing with [her] food.” The mansion that serves as the overnight death trap is a masterclass in production design, the criminals that make up the fodder are tons of fun in their single character traits, and Alisha Weir gives what will likely be the best performance for any child actor all year in the title role. If you saw the trailer, you got exactly what was promised.

The problem is that, the way the plot is structured, that promise, strictly speaking, should have never been made. While the movie excels in a lot of ways, the marketing ends up giving away the ghost in a way that dulls the overall experience, creating a situation that is eventually paid off properly, but feels at times like the agonizing wait to get to the fireworks factory because the film isn’t done well enough to compensate.

Opening with the first major “clue” to the reveal we all know is coming (the titular demon spawn performing solo ballet to an empty auditorium), we quickly meet our crew of kidnappers, all of whom are eventually given Reservoir Dogs-esque code names (based on the Rat Pack, with one exception). It’s in this beginning sequence that we learn, much to our dismay, that the entire project has a problem hiding its secrets. “Joey” (Melissa Barrera) is the only one who doesn’t look like a complete caricature, and she notably looks at a picture of herself and her son on her phone. Clearly, she’s going to be the last one standing and survive, thereby removing any suspense from the proceedings. Meanwhile, the domineering “professional” who goes by “Frank” (Dan Stevens) is going to be the secondary antagonist and probably the last one to die.

The crew pulls off the abduction of Abigail from her home, with Joey injecting her with a sedative, checking her pulse to make sure she’s out (how a vampire has a pulse is anyone’s guess), and they race through Boston to the “safe house” manor where all but our hero will likely meet their ends. Here their handler, Lambert (Giancarlo Esposito), assigns their names, commands them to limit contact with the girl, share no personal information, and just sit tight for the night, and in the morning they’ll all have $50 million to divide amongst themselves (where’s Pete Postlethwaite when you need him?). As soon as Lambert leaves, Joey goes to visit Abigail, partially obscuring her face but also giving the child all the information she needs to turn her against the others. This also happens when Frank barges in the room. Back in the bar, the moronic Dean (the late Angus Cloud; the film is dedicated in his memory) hits on hacker e-girl Sammy (Kathryn Newton), while muscle-head enforcer Peter (Kevin Durand, looking like how Elon Musk must imagine himself in the mirror) looks on jealously, and “Don” (Will Catlett, named after comedian Rickles) crushes on Joey.

Bored and stupid, the team immediately starts discussing each other’s backstories despite the explicit order not to less than five minutes previous, with Frank eventually challenging Joey to come up with one “fact” about him for $100. In a moment of pure, naked exposition disguised as character development (we HAVE to establish her as smarter than everyone to justify her surprise-to-no-one victory), Joey then speaks for several minutes on end, revealing the personalities and motivations of everyone in the room. This is meant to make her look smart, but it’s so clunky that it’s embarrassing, and it gets even weirder when you consider that the information she divulges is eventually used against them by Abigail (Frank blames Joey for this even though he was the one who instigated it), and all the information is rendered moot by the vampire princess later on anyway. It’s all just empty padding and false pathos for characters we all know are going to get slaughtered.

It’s at this point that I’m legitimately starting to get worried. We were promised a batshit child vampire murder spree, and instead we’re getting the worst type of heist movie. Abigail herself doesn’t do anything truly suspicious until the 40-minute mark, and no one is offed until nearly 55 minutes in. The wait to get to the reveal we’re all anticipating is excruciating and so full of bad scripting and worse acting that it almost threatens to doom the entire film. Barrera is an absolute nothing lead, yet another “strong woman” who’s only strong because the focus group charts say she has to be; if the screenplay were better and actually had some ambiguity in the presentation, we’d all assume she’d be the first to croak. The only high point is Dan Stevens trying on yet another accent and playing another wonderfully off character for the second time in as many months (he was also one of the only pleasant things about Godzilla x Kong).

Thankfully, though, once the hunt is officially on and we get our first corpse, things turn around quite quickly and the entire affair redeems itself. From the moment we get that kill, the rest of the picture is a non-stop rush of righteous splatter, bonkers performances, genuine horror comedy, and Alisha Weir treating the scenery like an ancillary victim, chewing it with pure giddiness. Seriously, every moment that she gets to just go crazy is an absolute joy. We even get to have some fun with the conventions of vampire movies, as various weapons against the monsters are discussed and trotted out with varying levels of success. I won’t spoil it, but there’s a moment with a bag of onions that is just gold.

This is definitely a case where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and can exist as a cautionary tale in movie advertising going forward. When this story truly gets going, it’s among the best of the year (and by default it’s the best horror of 2024 so far), but the marketing was truly botched, because we knew the big reveal long before the flick came out, and it took forever to get there once we sat down. There are times when a trailer will give away a crucial plot detail, but it’s rare when it gives away the ONLY one that drives the whole exercise.

It presents something of a conundrum, because it’s hard to say who truly screwed the pooch here. Would this have been even more exciting if we didn’t know going in that Abigail was a vampire? Perhaps. But would the studio have been able to sell the film without that knowledge? I’m not so sure. This is a really good movie, but there might not have been another way to pitch this to audiences via a preview that didn’t give this major aspect away, because there’s not that much more to it. If you re-edit it as a heist gone awry and hide the reveal, that might work, but there’s just as big a chance that you’ll alienate your viewers by lying about what the picture really is.

In the end, I think it’s more incumbent upon the filmmakers to create a better product, and there probably should have been one more key point that was obscured. Whether that’s creating better characters, doing a better job of foreshadowing, or just having a second twist, there needed to be something just a little bit extra to prevent a cinematic catch-22. To be clear, two thirds of this is an absolute blast, and I’ll enjoy repeat viewings at home for years to come, if nothing else than for Weir’s demented performance. But like that opening scene, there’s an awful lot that plays like it’s for a single person with a great idea having fun by themselves. It’s personally satisfying, but it could have been so much more glorious.

Grade: B+

Join the conversation in the comments below! What film should I review next? How impatient do you get waiting for a crucial plot turn? If you were running a crew, what code names would you give them? Let me know! And remember, you can follow me on Twitter (fuck “X”) and YouTube for even more content, and check out the entire BTRP Media Network at btrpmedia.com!

Originally published at http://actuallypaid.com on May 4, 2024.



William J Hammon

All content is from the blog, “I Actually Paid to See This,” available at actuallypaid.com