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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Photograph: © 2024 Universal Studios

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

A riotous, gory horror-comedy that’s high on vampires, viscera and ballet

Tchaikovsky’s ballet ‘Swan Lake’ opens with soft-lapping melodies, before building to several great crashing crescendos. And so it is with Ready or Not pair Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett’s raucously entertaining, ballet-themed gorefest. Abigail is a vampire film that pirouettes over your funny bone while sinking its teeth into your neck… over and over again.

Six testy individuals stake-out a 12-year-old girl as she’s driven home from ballet practice. They drug and kidnap little Abigail (still in her tutu) and zip her into a bag during a set-piece that’s too slick to be tense. Then it’s off to the creepy isolated mansion where the rest of the film unfolds. 

‘No real names, no back stories, no grab ass,’ says Giancarlo Esposito, their de facto leader, as he welcomes the crew and hands each of them a fake name. But our watchful heroine ‘Joey’ (Melissa Barrera) is able to read the back stories on her co-conspirators: these are cocky bent cop ‘Frank’ (Dan Stevens), stern military man ‘Rickles’ (William Catlett), corrupt meathead ‘Peter’ (Kevin Durand), hacker princess ‘Sammy’ (Kathryn Newton), and walking shambles Dean, played by the late Angus Cloud (the film is dedicated to his memory).

All they need to do is guard Abigail (Matilda the Musical’s Alisha Weir) for 24 hours until her father pays a ransom and they get $7 million richer. Sounds simple, right?

It’s a gory horror that creates a genre we never knew we needed

From there, the pace picks up and bloody-but-mysterious deaths start happening. Michael P Shawver’s witty editing draws laughs from gleeful violence crosscut with pliéing elsewhere in the house to the sound of, yes, of course, ‘Swan Lake’. 

Anchoring all the entertaining schlock is a performance of real gravitas by Barrera. As ‘Joey’ she nails down the human stakes as decisively as wooden stakes are nailed through undead hearts. Doing something slightly different is Stevens (wearing a little earring) who has a blast as an officious twerp-turned-fangtastic villain. 

While the third acts lag slightly, the tonal assurance never does. This is a delightfully-pitched, gory horror comedy that energetically creates a crossover genre we never knew we needed: the vampire ballet. 

In cinemas worldwide April 19.

Written by
Sophie Monks Kaufman

Cast and crew

  • Director:Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
  • Screenwriter:Guy Busick, Stephen Shields
  • Cast:
    • Kathryn Newton
    • Dan Stevens
    • Melissa Barrera
    • Alisha Weir
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