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Paul Asay

Movie Review

If your typical babysitter was offered $50 million to watch a kid for a few hours, your typical babysitter would hopefully—after setting up an offshore banking account—ask a very important question: What’s the catch?

Alas, the babysitters in Abigail didn’t bother. And, well, let’s just say they regretted it.

Sure, it wasn’t your typical babysitting gig. It was more of a kidnapping gig, which explains the higher-than-average hourly rate. The job of the six kidnappers was to snatch a 12-year-old girl, whisk her away to a creepy ol’ mansion and keep her there for, oh, 24 hours or so. That’s when the girl’s very rich pappy would presumably cough up the required $50 million to get her back.

Simple, right?

And sure enough, the kidnapping part of the caper went off without a hitch. The girl—still dressed in her ballerina tutu and some seriously sparkly shoes—was nabbed, drugged and bagged in short order. She barely let out a peep. And when the mansion’s alarm sounded, it was too late: The crew was well on their way to … um, safety?

Joey knew before the rest that something was a little off about this assignment. Tasked with keeping the kid locked in a spare bedroom and as comfy as possible, Joey’s the only one who’s supposed to have any contact with the girl. Naturally, Joey tries to reassure her that she’ll come out of this safe and sound as soon as her dad coughs up the money.

But the girl, Abigail, tells Joey that there won’t be any money. Her father lost interest in her long ago.

And then, as Joey’s about to leave, Abigail says something rather strange.

“I’m sorry about what’s going to happen to you.”

What’s the catch? Yeah, they really should’ve asked.

Catch No. 1: Abigail’s father isn’t just a prominent politician or a rich tech tycoon. No, he’s Kristof Lazar, one of the world’s most feared crime lords.

Catch No. 2: Abigail isn’t just a girl in a tutu and spangly shoes: She’s her dad’s hatchet man—only she has no need for a hatchet. Vampires rarely do.

Positive Elements

So, who exactly does one root for in the movie Abigail—a movie that pits a half-dozen dastardly criminals against a very hungry supernatural bloodsucker?

You root for Joey, that’s who.

In a film in which everyone’s morality is either seriously fractured or absolutely shattered, Joey’s the most likable of the lot. Sure, she’s made some mistakes. It’s established early on that she’s a recovering drug addict. But Joey also has a child of her own whom she loves a great deal. She takes the job, in fact, so she can be a real mom to him again. And because Abigail appears to be about the same age as her own little boy, Joey’s pretty protective of the pint-size ballerina. She even pinkie swears with Abigail that she’ll keep her safe.

Obviously, that pinkie swear that comes with some unexpected caveats. Still, the thought was nice enough, and meant sincerely. And before Abigail reveals her true nature, Joey indeed keeps her more aggressive workmates at bay as much as possible.

Abigail, the film, comes with a few twists and turns, which I’ll try not to spoil. But we can say that some of the kidnappers turn out to be more kindly and supportive than you might expect, and we see characters form unexpected alliances—and show, at times, unexpected grace.

Spiritual Elements

Peter, one of the kidnappers, is Christian. We see him pray (in a bit of a panic), cross himself and clutch a crucifix that hangs around his neck.

You’d think that crucifix would come in handy, right? Wrong. Imagine Peter’s disappointment when Abigail grabs the small crucifix and starts stabbing him in the shoulder with it.

But while Abigail may not be cowed by Christian symbols or trappings, she’s still a supernatural entity. She can levitate, for one thing. She can control other vampires under certain circumstances—possessing them, in a way, and turning them into undead puppets.

And while vampires here are not at all affected by crosses, light is still a huge threat, as are wooden stakes—both of which continue to embrace a tang of supernatural spirituality. (Some say that wooden stakes are effective against vampires because of wood’s role in Christ’s crucifixion, and the sun’s power is obviously a symbol for light’s triumph over darkness.)

Sexual Content

One kidnapper, Dean, unsuccessfully flirts with a female coworker, Sammy. He asks her (at an inopportune time) whether she has a boyfriend or not. At another juncture, he sneaks into a room she’s in and suggests that they might have some physical fun together. (She throws him out.)

Yet another kidnapper, Rickles, invites Joey into his own hiding spot—apparently with an eye toward some off-the-books extracurricular activity. Joey seems tempted, but she demurs.

Someone draws a picture of a penis on a sleeping man’s face.

Violent Content

Ah, the good old days. In 1922’s German horror film Nosferatu, the titular vampire dies when the sun hits him—and he vanishes into nothing. In 1931’s Dracula, not a single drop of blood—human or vampire—was shed on screen.

Fast-forward a century, give or take, and we find that vampires are much messier eaters. And they die messily, too.

First, the eating part. Abigail mentions she likes “playing with my food,” and so she does. One victim is propped up at a kitchen table, headless—while its severed cranium teeters nearby. Others have their throats torn open, with plenty of other damage done to the bodies, too. (Someone remarks that it looks like a victim has been “torn apart by a wild animal”).

Vampires devour portions of their victims while the victims are still alive, and Abigail seems to revel in spreading blood around her face as if it was foundation cream. We hear grotesque stories about how she killed previous victims. And one kidnapper stumbles on a swimming pool filled with dozens of floating, dead bodies.

Meanwhile: Instead of fading away with Nosferatu-like modesty, doomed vampires explode, with all the blood and gore and entrails you’d expect. (Folks in the presence of such explosions are coated in red, and someone picks an unidentifiable internal organ off her shirt.)

A character is skewered in the leg with a sharpened billiard stick. A crucifix, as mentioned, is used as a stabbing weapon. People fall off balconies and tumble down flights of stairs. The spine of one character grotesquely snaps. Characters are skewered by stakes and other very pointy instruments of doom. Someone gets a splinter in his finger. Characters are shot, sometimes repeatedly. (And, if those characters are vampires, the wounds quickly heal.)

Crude or Profane Language

We’re looking at more than 100 f-words (sometimes wedged in between “Jesus” and “Christ”) and perhaps 20 s-words. We also hear “a–,” “b–ch” and “d–n,” and we see a number of obscene gestures flashed. Characters misuse both God’s and Jesus’ name multiple times (the former sometimes with the word “d–n.”)

Drug and Alcohol Content

Joey once had a serious drug problem. And Frank, the team’s leader, won’t let her forget it. He notes her penchant for wearing long sleeves (to hide track marks, he says); her habit of sucking on candy (a common substitute for consuming other substances); and, when she refuses to drink with Frank and her other workmates, he wonders how long she’s been out of rehab—and if she’s concerned about a relapse. He says that you can never trust a “junkie.” (To her credit, Joey’s doing everything she can to stay clean and earn trust once again.)

Meanwhile, the other characters drink, and some drink quite heavily. (Perhaps not the best of strategies when locked in with a vampire, but I digress.) Dean is perhaps the most impaired kidnapper—swilling alcohol out of bottles, lighting bongs and smoking a huge marijuana blunt.

Other Negative Elements

When a character finds a stash of dead bodies, she throws up grotesquely in a sink. But that’s really a warm-up for what’s to come. Later, a character projectile vomits about a barrel of blood, a flow that eventually slows to a mere ooze.

Characters deceive and betray each other.


One of the more interesting aspects of Abigail is that no one is quite who or what they might seem. No one on the kidnapping crew is using their real name. Everyone has untold secrets revealed in the film’s own sweet time. And obviously, Abigail—that seemingly innocent 12-year-old girl—has her own secret that soon pours out like blood from severed jugulars.

But when it comes to the movie itself—well, that’s exactly what it seems.

Oh, sure, the film has some twists. It’s also clever, funny and—occasionally—even heartfelt.

But the movie’s makers know their audience. They know the people who fill the seats and gobble down popcorn want blood and gore and decomposing bodies. Those viewers want to cringe and laugh in equal measure. They want to be absolutely horrified by a scene—and find the same scene absolutely hilarious.

Abigail is not the sort of horror movie to be taken all that seriously. It brings few weighty social issues to bear, trots out no metaphors to consider. Despite all the flesh we see perforated here, Abigail goes only skin deep. Its star gobbles her victims as her viewers gobble their popcorn.

But movies are, on some level, always serious business.

What’s the catch? The kidnapping squad sure could’ve asked that question before spending time with Abigail. And perhaps we moviegoers should ask the same thing.

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.