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Espada y Escudo

Espada y Escudo

The Student News Site of Vel Phillips Memorial

Abigail!

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From the filmmaking duo that brought you Ready or Not and the 2 most recent Scream movies comes Abigail, the 2nd film in the last 2 years to ask “what if the killer in a horror movie was a little girl who can do TikTok dances?” All comparisons aside, I pretty much hated 5cream, but the good will of Ready or Not and the goofy fun surprise of Scream 6 made me want to check this out in the hope that I’d be in for some good horror fun— and I was! It’s undeniable from audience reactions alone that Radio Silence (director duo Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett) has a tap on what makes a crowd pleasing modern horror movie. They’re filmmakers of the irony-tinged Marvel “well, that just happened” age to be sure, but more often than not they’re able to turn that into something that feels genre-aware and darkly funny rather than flat or outright self-loathing like so many films of their ilk do, with a special love for gore that welcomingly never weighs into needless edginess. Abigail is much the same, setting its aims on a mash of crime and vampire film tropes now— though it is maybe the biggest example of the directorial duo’s flaws, as well. This is basically designed to be paired with Ready or Not as a double feature: both films star working class heroines who somehow power through the blood, guts, and violence thrown at them, both films feature a midpoint reversal where the supposed victim becomes the slasher, both films feature people exploding in the daylight— and while it’s fun to see the duo formulating their directorial signatures in real time, it only highlights where Abigail falters. 

For one, it encounters the time old issue of having the characters not know the premise revealed in the trailers until late in the runtime. If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve basically seen the plot of the first hour of the film, though I’ll keep specific plot related discussions here limited for the sake of those who haven’t. While Radio Silence does a good job using that hour to develop group dynamics and play with whodunnit tropes, it still can’t help but feel like we’re stalling for a twist to nobody. Most of the vampire action is shoved off to the back half of the film, making it feel strangely lopsided and uncentered for a film decidedly titled Abigail. And on the note of that action: Radio Silence has seemingly regressed since their improvement with set pieces in Scream 6. There’s very little sense of geography for a film set in one house, and in a rare moment of flattening rather than fun irony, most vampire lore is discarded with a “you really think that would work?” attitude that removes any other sense of internal logic or worldbuilding to the scares. Most scare scenes are directed more as action sequences than stalk-and-kills, consisting mostly of one jump scare, a bit of running, and a bit of hand to hand combat before the scene ends. It frankly just doesn’t work, especially in a film that prides itself on being knowledgeable about the genre.

Still, I wasn’t lying when I said that Abigail is fun, in large part due to its very game cast. Alisha Weir is fantastic as Abigail, flipping between childlike charm and demonic physicality with impressive ease. Opposite her, Melissa Berrerra has come far from the wooden days of 5cream, perfectly embodying a similar kind of determined, pragmatic, yet caring working class leading woman to Samara Weaving in Ready or Not, only further proving to studios what they lost with their recent blacklisting of her. Both leads are held up by a good supporting cast: Dan Stevens is great as a sleazy Queens douchebag whose every other word is an expletive, Giancarlo Esposito is always a terrific screen presence, even in just two scenes, while Angus Cloud, Kathryn Newton, and Kevin Durand do great building chemistry with one another in what amounts to bit parts. Radio Silence also likely delivers their goriest film yet here; if you were a fan of the exploding people and bloodsoaked heroine of Ready or Not or the gnarly physical violence of Scream 5 and 6, you’ll be pleased to find those and more in this. If you just let yourself relax and enjoy what Abigail provides, you’ll likely leave the theater happy, but if you put it under light to examine it under any more scrutiny, you may find that Abigail is quick to combust.

 

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About the Contributor
Max Knight, Opinions Editor
Max Knight is a junior and has been writing articles for Sword & Shield since his sophomore year. He loves writing pieces of all kinds and, as the Opinions editor at Sword & Shield this year, he hopes to provide engaging and entertaining articles on topics both big and small. When not in school, Max loves movies, both watching and making them, playing games, and hanging out with friends.
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    Scott ThomMay 1, 2024 at 10:08 pm

    Nice review! Keep up the good work. Maybe a review of The 25th anniversary edition of The Matrix is in order?

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