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Abigail (2023) Review

In 1976 Abigail (Ava Cantrell, Lights Out, Exit 13) and her mother Eve (Hermione Lynch, Laced, We Are CVNT5) arrive in East Nowhere Alabama. Eve tells their new neighbours Donna (Karimah Westbrook, Suburbicon, The Rum Diary) and her son Lucas (Tren Reed-Brown) that they moved there from California because it was time for a change.

Despite a rather rough first meeting, Abigail and Lucas become friends, and it becomes obvious that both of them are troubled but have taken different paths to dealing with their issues. It’s not long before she’s taking on Daniel (Trace Talbot, Apparition, White Terror) and his buddies who’ve been bullying Lucas.

But it soon becomes clear she’s got a dark side, and is willing to take thing way too far.

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Director Melissa Vitello (Community Theater Christmas, The Sound of Settling) and writer Gunnar Garrett (In My Head, 22) get the film off to an attention grabbing start. In a scene that recalls The Town That Dreaded Sundown, a couple parked out in the middle of nowhere fall victim to a baseball bat wielding figure with a burlap sack mask.

But then after the credits, the story rewinds to a week before and the film’s pace is reduced to a slow boil. The next half hour or so is devoted to getting to know the leads and their situation. It soon becomes clear that Donna’s story about her husband’s departure may not be entirely true. And the truth may be connected to the bullying Lucas receives. Eve’s mention of “the incident with your father” tells us there’s a story there too. There’s definitely a story in their dysfunctional relationship and Abigail’s reaction to her mother’s threat to take her back “there”.

While the setup is nicely done, the answers are considerably less than surprising. In fact, it all follows a pretty standard template. That includes a final reveal that ties up some loose ends in a predictable, if improbable, manner. There is a mid-credits scene, but it adds nothing to the film. Which is too bad because Abigail desperately needed something to help it out.

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One potential plot point that was surprisingly ignored given the film’s setting was Abigail being white and Lucas black. That was shocking enough at that point of time in most places, let alone in the “Heart of Dixie.” I expected it to add to some of the violence directed at the two, but it’s never mentioned.

The film’s violence is similarly unimpressive. Vitello and cinematographer Bryan Ricke (Adventures in Online Dating, End It Like Beckham) make them look good, an attack involving a fire extinguisher and an axe is visually striking, but the sound effects are the most gruesome thing about them and what we see barely rises to PG-13 levels of violent.

With its lack of gore and refusal to fully exploit some potentially disturbing themes, Abigail feels like it was meant as a horror thriller for younger audiences. Or perhaps for people who don’t usually watch horror films but would respond to its advertising that tries to sell it as another young female fronted action thriller like Becky. Although, anyone expecting that film’s level of gore will be sadly disappointed.

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The acting is solid, especially Cantrell in the title role, she kept me guessing about her motivations up until the film finally reveals her true nature. Tren Reed-Brown, whose only previous credit is in a music video, does a good job opposite her as the highly conflicted Lucas. The only other cast member who has much to work with is Lynch, who does a decent job as a woman driven to the end of her rope.

So while I can’t say I was bored by Abigail, I can’t say it was particularly memorable or exciting either. It doesn’t help that by the time the film ends, most of the bodies are of people who pretty much deserved what they got.

Dark Star Pictures will release Abigail on DVD as well as to Digital and VOD Platforms on December 5th.

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