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Beware of the little biting ballerina – Beyond Bollywood

Though gory, Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin’s reimagining of Dracula’s Daughter is refreshing. Young Alisha Weir leads an impressive cast.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (3 / 5)

By Mayur Lookhar

Abigail. A relatively unheralded name in the Bible. A story of a wise woman who pleaded with David to spare her wealthy scoundrel husband. Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin’s Abigail [2024] is not that person. Instead, here is a 12-year-old ballerina who asks for a pinky promise from one of her captors to keep her safe.

The masked Joey [Melissa Barrera] obliges, but as she turns her back, Abigail [Alisha Weir] chides, “I’m sorry for what is about to happen to you and your friends.”  

Here’s a bunch that didn’t even know of each other’s existence before assembling for the kidnapping. Jeez, they aren’t even allowed to reveal their true identities. Once at the deserted villa, Lambert [Giancarlo Esposito], their handler, assigns them their names – Joey [Barrera], Sammy [Kathryn Newton], Frank [Dan Stevans], Rickles [Will Catlett], Peter [Kevin Durand], Dean [Angus Cloud]. Just moments ago, Joey and the others were intrigued by the possibility of a $7 million ransom. But now, they wear worried expressions, uncertain of whom they’ve truly kidnapped.

Don’t wound what you can’t kill. In this case, don’t capture what you can’t tame. Director duo Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin have offered a refreshing twist to filmmaker Lambert Hillyer’s classic Dracula’s Daughter [1936]. Their contemporary setting, incorporation of the art form of ballet, and a juvenile protagonist provide much-needed impetus to the well-trodden genre. Like the original, there’s also a nod to Woody Woodpecker.

Lambert Hillyer’s film humanized Dracula’s daughter, Maria Zaleska. With a tagline of ‘Children can be monsters’, Abigail [2024] inevitably stokes fears of child-hate. All that gore in the last 50 minutes further complicates the matter. Gillet and Bettinelli-Olpin fail to rein in the gore, but are eventually sensitive to the child-hate concern.

Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin collaborations are called as Radio Silence.  They have a penchant for horror-comedies as seen in their previous works like Ready or Not [2019], Scream [2022], and Scream VI [2023]. Abigail has its fair share of dark humour, but it shouldn’t overshadow the chilling atmosphere. We felt this humour was misplaced in the immediate aftermath of a dreaded revelation. The duo, though, manage to strike the right balance overall. Here, credit is due to the fine writing of Stephen Shields and Guy Busick.

Source: Universal Pictures

The screenplay and gore may evoke mixed views, but there’s likely to be consensus around the quality of the cast, led by child artiste Alisha Weir. The Irish girl still possesses the innocence of a Matilda Wormwood. She charms as the ballerina Abigail but strikes fear as the little she-devil. Phew, the ballerina even grooves with her fangs out. She may suck the life out of you, yet you’re drawn to Abigail. That boils down to Weir’s convincing portrayal of Abigail.

Melissa Barrera

Though locked in a battle of survival, Joey still intrigues her tormentor. That pinky promise also symbolizes maternal instincts. It, however, goes for a toss when Joey pumps (wastes) a few bullets into Abigail. Joey is skilled at gauging people from their body language. Instincts are fine, but in matters of life and death, desperation is what counts. Barrera embodies the steely resolve of a Joey, but is it enough to survive? Barrera backs the screen presence with a strong showing.

Kathryn Newton is adorable as the diva-like Sammy, who draws guffaws with her impish sense of humor in a grim situation. The women are brilliant, but the men, too, leave their mark. Dan Stevans is intimidating as Frank. Unfortunately, Angus Cloud (25) tragically passed away from a drug overdose in real life. How tragic that he portrayed a dopey character in his last film. However, Cloud’s performance was very convincing. So, too, were Will Catlett and Kevin Durand.

Abigail [2024] is enhanced by fine cinematography and impressive special effects, particularly the action choreography that cuts through your skin. Though a contemporary tale, Susie Cullen’s production design shines, blending modernity with the charm of a Gothic house.

The gore may irk some, but Gillett and Bettinelli-Olpin’s Abigail has enough thrill, chill, and humour to keep the viewer engaged. Yes, you won’t be mocked if you’re wary of a ballerina.

Distributed by Universal Pictures, Abigail is screening in Indian theatres from today [26 April].

Watch the video review below.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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