Movie Review: A heist movie that gleefully collides with a monster movie in 'Abigail'

If you always thought your garden-variety heist movies could do with a bit more blood-sucking vampire, have we got a flick for you.

“Abigail,” featuring a 12-year-old tutu-wearing member of the undead, is way better than it should be, a gleeful genre-smashing romp through puddles of gore.

Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett and producer Chad Villella — part of Radio Silence Productions — have cracked the modern horror code with such hits as “Ready or Not,” “Scream” and “Scream VI.” They do not disappoint with “Abigail,” even perhaps opening a new, bloody revenue stream. (And wait for the phone call scene, a nod to “Scream.”)

“Abigail” starts with an odd assortment of mercenaries — played by “Scream” veteran Melissa Barrera, “Downton Abbey” star Dan Stevens, Kathryn Newton, Kevin Durand, William Catlett and the late Angus Cloud.

The six — representing the muscle, sniper, computer expert, getaway driver, medic etc — are hired to kidnap a rich preteen (nicknamed “Tiny Dancer”) and hold her for ransom. The rules are: No names. No backstory. No grabass, which is a weird request, if we’re being honest. All this group needs to do is detain the target for 24 hours until rich dad pays $50 million in ransom.

Why are six professional underworld characters needed to snatch and detain a sweet preteen, still wearing her tutu? That’s easy: Not all of them are going to survive to claim their share of $7 million. That’s because Abigail (Alisha Weir, awesome, stay away from me, no seriously) is really into, well, neckwork.

“I’m sorry about what’s going to happen to you,” Abigail sweetly tells the kidnappers. We have some idea — and it’s going to be great. Suddenly, the rambling estate they’re holding her becomes a prison. The tables are turned.

The script written by Stephen Shields (“The Hole in the Ground”) and regular Radio Silence collaborator Guy Busick (“Ready or Not” and the “Scream” movies) — gleefully mines humor in the horror. Laughing a moment after a body fully explodes is normal here.

“This whole thing is a trip,” says one of the gang. Believe them. “Something doesn’t add up,” says another. Believe that guy, too.

Garlic, sunlight, spears and crucifixes are employed to try to stop Abigail, who has hijacked the heist movie and turned it into a run-for-your-life thriller. She’s a very smart 12-year-old who turns hardened mercenaries against each other.

Barrera, who had been so central to the life of the “Scream” franchise, shows why she’s so good at horror — funny, sarcastic, vulnerable, athletic, soulful and very convincing with a stake in her hand.

Stevens, who famously left the aristocratic “Downton Abbey” for better roles, may wonder what he’s doing here now, bathed in blood fighting a preteen vampire, but does an admirable job, definitely in on the camp.

But it’s Weir in the titular role who carries it, doing pirouettes and leaps as she chases the bad-guys-now-good guys to the theme of “Swan Lake” with blood dripping down her throat, rotten teeth and feathers in her hair. “I like to play with my food,” she says.

Run faster!

“Abigail,” a Universal Pictures release that hits theaters Friday, is rated R for “strong bloody violence and gore throughout, pervasive language and brief drug use.” Running time: 110 minutes. Three stars out of four.


MPAA definition of R: Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.




Mark Kennedy is at

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