CINEMA: Abigail - horribly gruesome, horribly enjoyable

Abigail (Universal Pictures)Abigail (Universal Pictures)
Abigail (Universal Pictures)
Abigail (18), (109 mins), Cineworld Cinemas

Presumably the moral is: don’t kidnap people, especially if you are not absolutely certain who they actually are. After all, as the film Abigail so gruesomely and gleefully points out, they might just be the daughter of Dracula.

Such is the misfortune which befalls a rather hapless, mismatched bunch of ne'er-do-wells who snatch the 12-year-old ballerina daughter of someone reputed to be mega rich. The idea is that they will hold her in a remote, spooky country mansion for 24 hours until her daddy coughs up millions and millions of dollars.

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However, the sweet girl, whom we see dancing so beautifully on the stage in the opening sequence, turns out to be considerably more of a prospect than they bargained for. First they realise that her dad is a hugely powerful crime boss with a particularly vicious henchman. Then they realise that their worries are rather more imminent than that. There is something very chilling as little Abigail, fleetingly released from her handcuffs and gag, tells one of the gang “I am really sorry about what is going to happen to you.” Within minutes she’s ripping necks out. Even worse, the creepy old mansion seals itself remotely, huge barriers tumbling down across the windows and solid bars blocking the doors.

The gang really have got themselves in a pickle and one by one, they start to pay very, very heavily for their miscalculation. Inevitably, it’s a film which gets sillier and sillier by the minute, but in its favour, it was never terribly sensible to start off with. Just as the perps are pretty stupid right from the start. Why on earth would their take the captive Abigail to precisely the kind of rambling, tumble-down country pile which would freak out anyone with an ounce of common sense?

But for all that common sense is in short supply, the increasingly beleaguered villains play it through to the bitter end with total conviction, no matter how many of them suddenly explode leaving everyone else dripping in their intestines. Yes, it really is that unpleasant as body-part mush increasingly coats the lot of them.

Meanwhile, Abigail is munching away merrily. The baddies come up with various plans which prolong the proceedings, and towards the end there are certainly some unexpected pairings and developments. The film maintains its grisly momentum throughout.

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But maybe the most remarkable thing is that Abigail is played by Alisha Weir who was so wonderful in Matilda The Musical. She’s terrific too in this. It’s an astonishing movie to move on to and she pulls it off brilliantly. But something really does bug throughout. She’s 14 years old. If you had a 14-year-old daughter, would you really want her in a film like this, however great she is in the role? No, me neither… It’s a film she can’t legally go and see.

Amongst the baddies, especially as it all gets hammier towards the end, Dan Stevens is clearly having great fun as Frank.

Probably more interesting, though, is Melissa Barrera as Joey, the one character who shows some compassion for the little ballerina they’ve snatched and manacled. Usefully, Joey is also a medic. But goodness, she’s got her work cut out keeping up with this particular bloodbath.