A child ballerina vampire hunts her kidnappers inside a haunted house” sounds like an amazing concept for a movie, but it’s also the type of ridiculous premise that typically falls flat in execution. Far too often movies with funny loglines try to get by entirely on their outrageous idea. But a film needs a lot more than that to be legitimately good. It needs good writing, filmmaking, performances, production, and just the right tone to avoid feeling either too serious or too stupid. It needs everything Abigail has, because this horror-comedy not only lives up to its premise, it exceeds it. Abigail is an intense, creepy, funny, often weird ode to vampire stories that has the perfect amount of humor and a fantastic cast.

If someone walks into Abigail knowing nothing about it, they will spend the first half thinking they’re watching a traditional, tight, well-made heist film. It opens with a group of strangers hired to do a high-paying job. They steal a little girl to ransom back to her wealthy father. All they have to do to earn their millions is stay in a creepy old mansion with the child for 24 hours. The problems start (or so they think) when they find out her dad is a mythical underworld figure and they’re all in mortal danger. It’s a classic concept for a thriller and that version of the movie is incredibly well-done and gripping. That part of the film is claustrophobic and eerie, and the group is dynamic and interesting enough to add extra tension.

In some other universe that’s the story Abigail finishes telling, as Keyser Söze comes looking for his daughter. And in that world, my Variant is currently writing a review praising the movie for being a satisfying and entertaining entry in the heist-gone-wrong genre. But in this reality, the film goes in a dramatically different direction instead. Midway through the movie it becomes a vampire movie. And I am very sorry for my parallel self, because that genre switch is a whole lot of fun.

A man holda a child on his shoulder with a group of fellow kidnappers behind him in Abigail
Universal Pictures

The film’s fantastic production design also adds needed weight to a movie that could have easily come across as too inane in lesser hands. The haunted old mansion feels like a real place, giving Abigail a needed sense of taking place in an authentic location. The movie is claustrophobic, but never feels limited by its setting.

Despite the trailers, Abigail is more horror than comedy, but it never forgets its comedic grounding. I laughed from start to finish. That pitch-perfect balance keeps things just light enough without ever undercutting the tension. This movie is as creepy as getting locked inside a house with a vampire sounds, though it is unsettling rather than straight up scary. Both the action and horror are also elevated by the deft camerawork of directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett. There are multiple sequences and moments that had me smiling throughout, and how they shot them is a big reason why.

Universal Pictures

That includes one memorable scene with Kathryn Newton and young Alisha Weir that is among my favorites of 2024. I won’t dare spoil it for you, but you’ll know it when you see it.

Both Newton and Weir are tremendous from start to finish. Newton is essentially the fourth lead, but she’s absolutely charming and magnetic every time she’s on screen. But the movie simply would not work if young Weir was not absolutely fantastic as the child vampire. She’s funny, charismatic, creepy, and has the acting chops of a 40-year-veteran. I genuinely can’t believe how good she is chewing up scenery and necks. Her blood-soaked smirk is somehow both angelic and devilish. If it were possible to buy stock in her acting career, I’d be banking on an early retirement on her.

Universal Pictures

They are far from the old standouts in the cast, though. Melissa Barrera anchors the film so it stays just grounded enough. She provides the right level of gravitas without feeling like she’s in a different movie. Barrera’s “Joey” (the kidnappers all use fake names, which is why the movie has a “Don Rickles”) is smart, capable, and dryly funny. She’s also the only one who seems to fully comprehend what’s going on and how to deal with the situation. That leads to some fantastic, hilarious, and sharp interactions with her fellow kidnappers/dinner options. (That includes some interactions where they talk vampire-lore. It’s the good kind of meta, referential, fun, and reverent without being obnoxious. This movie takes vampires seriously, but in the way people who love vampire stories do.)

Many of those take place with Dan Stevens, who once again proves why Dan Stevens should be cast in everything. I could not possibly love him in this movie anymore than I do. He plays the group’s de facto leader “Frank,” a dangerous, skilled asshole. Frank is also hilarious because Stevens elevates even his most basic dialogue into memorable and funny lines. He exemplifies why this movie is so successful. Stevens is super fun, but not overtly silly. He’s intense and intimidating, but not too serious. He gets right to the line of shlock without ever going over, because his Frank still comes across as an actual person. He is the embodiment of everything Abigail does well in finding the perfect tone for what it sets out to do.

Universal Pictures

As does Kevin Durand, who plays the big dumb muscle of the group, Peter. He’s lovable, funny, and nails everyone of his scenes. The late Angus Cloud is not nearly as lovable, but that’s a compliment. He plays Dean, an intentionally annoying character who Cloud imbues with just enough humanity to make him sympathetic and human. Without that element, Dean would stand out for all the wrong reasons. Instead he’s just another vital cog in a well-oiled machine working just as its engineer intended.

And Abigail works in almost all ways. It only falls short when it tries to hit some emotional beats that just don’t get there. Minus one genuinely touching scene with Barrera’s Joey, the film strains to add heart it doesn’t really need. And there’s also an underwhelming moment near the end that won’t be exactly what most people are hoping for, but that no one will care about during a second viewing.

Universal Pictures

This movie also gets really, wonderfully weird and outrageous at points in the best way. It also gets incredibly bloody. It’s not as gory as you might expect. But by the end of the film, you’ll feel as though you personally swam in a pool of blood.

The result is a thoroughly satisfying movie experience. I wanted to rewatch Abigail the second it ended, because while “a child ballerina vampire hunts her kidnappers inside a haunted house” is a great premise for a film, Abigail is even better than that.


Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. He can’t wait to talk about a specific line of dialogue from Abigail. You can follow him on  Twitter and  Bluesky at @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.