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‘Abigail’ Review: Horror by Numbers

A cheerfully obvious splatterthon, the new horror movie “Abigail” follows a simple, time-tested recipe that calls for a minimal amount of ingredients. Total time: 109 minutes. Take a mysterious child, one suave fixer and six logic-challenged criminals. Place them in an extra-large pot with a few rats, creaking floorboards and ominous shadows. Stir. Simmer and continue stirring, letting the stew come to a near-boil. After an hour, crank the heat until some of the meat falls off the bone and the whole mix turns deep red. Enjoy!

That more or less sums up this movie, a horror flick that’s serviceable enough to make you occasionally giggle or flinch, yet is also so aggressively unambitious that it scarcely seems worth griping about. It centers on the kidnapping of the title character (a fine Alisha Weir), an outwardly self-possessed 12-year ballerina who’s snatched one night by a half-dozen genre types. A formulaically diverse cohort of underworld bottom feeders (played by Dan Stevens, among others), these Scooby-Doo-ish chuckleheads come with divergent skills, histories and expiration dates, and are largely tasked with padding the reed-thin story and dying horribly.

The filmmakers — it was written by Stephen Shields and Guy Busick, and directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett — have outfitted the story with the usual particulars. Much of the movie unfolds inside a sprawling labyrinthine mansion that looks like it was imagineered by an amusement park designer who scanned some old horror movies while thumbing through picture books on the history of the European aristocracy. There are suits of armor flanking the front door, a bearskin rug on the floor, an empty coffin tucked in a corner and oddly, given the genre circumstances, some fresh garlic in an otherwise derelict kitchen.

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