Director: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett Screenwriter: Stephen Shields, Guy Busick Cast: Melissa Barrera, Dan Stevens, Kathryn Newton, Will Catlett, Kevin Durand, Angus Cloud, Alisha Weir, Giancarlo Esposito Distributor: Universal Pictures Running Time: 109 min. MPAA: R

Years from now, there will most likely be someone who stumbles upon Abigail and be surprised by its second-act twist. I look forward to future generations discovering the film this way considering how much the marketing has spoiled this picture. I think it’s impossible to talk about this film’s rauchous brilliance without revealing the big surprise. For as much as I try to keep my reviews free of spoilers, I should preference this review with a spoiler warning.

For the first half of the film, Abigail functions as a fairly quirky crime picture. A team of various individuals (given Rat Pack aliases at the last minute) have been tasked with kidnapping a little girl, Abigail, and holding her for ransom. The one organizer Lambert (Giancarlo Esposito) gives the team a safe house to hold the girl for 24 hours before the ransom is paid. With no extra information revealed, the babysitting captors have plenty of time to get to know each other. It’s a recipe for disaster and dishonor among thieves, leading to some great debates over why so much about the girl, her family, and the people hired for this job is left in the dark.

The ensemble has their many quirks in how they’re more or less set up as a slasher gallery. There’s the cunning Joey (Melissa Barrera), astute enough to deduce the personalities of all her co-workers in a short period of time. She’ll have to contend with the short-fused Frank (Dan Stevens), the charming giant Peter (Kevin Durand), the eccentric Sammy (Kathryn Newton), the stoner Dean (Angus Cloud), and the level-headed sniper Rickles (Will Catlett). Joey, however, remains tight-lipped, but will soon have her secrets revealed when Abigail reveals her vampiric powers. It isn’t long before the whole find themselves trapped inside as the tiny ballerina goes on a vicious slaughtering spree.

Although the film saves its big vampire reveal roughly halfway through, the wry tone remains consistent enough that Abigail’s vampire chaos doesn’t feel like a left-field twist. There’s enough time to get to know the band of misfits and appreciate their effortlessly absurd back and forth. In the same way that Abigail plays with her food, delighting in watching her dinner of criminals scramble about the mansion, the movie delights in finding how many moments of charm, betrayal, and insults can be flung at the screen. From the bickering of decapitations to the debates over what kills vampires, there’s just enough smarts to these criminals to make them enduring. There’s a part of me that wants to see them all survive the night, if only to see what they’ll do next.

Of course, since this is a horror movie, they won’t. There’s lots of kills and they never bore with how creative Abigail gets with her brutality. Every vicious destruction always feels as though it’s amped up to the highest levels. When Abigail decapitated one of her captors, she not only leaves the head just enough on for the others to discover, but later performs a ballet with the corpse. When other vampires are thrown into the mix, they don’t just crumble into dust in the sunlight, but explode in a tsunami of blood and guts. The over-the-top violence adds to the absurdity and makes it clear this won’t be an easy fight. It also won’t be a clean one considering how much blood is spilled.

Abigail has a brilliant balance of knowing horror tropes and playing them up with rauchaus glee. It’s a film that goes for the gusto in how it guarantees you’ll see a little girl with fangs performing ballet across a mansion while she gores all within. Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett had proved they knew their horror chops in how they handled Scream VI and Ready or Not. Here, they showcase how much further they can go with the genre by having an absolute blast with a robust cast, the goriest of effects, and the slickest of writing. It’s a blood and guts bonanza with some brains thrown in for good measure.

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