Thursday, April 18, 2024

Radio Silence’s Abigail

This kidnapping will be a lot like “The Ransom of Red Chief,” but with lots more blood. The gang has no idea who they are kidnapping until it is way too late. Instead of paying to return her, these criminals will pay with their lives in Abigail, the latest horror movie from Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett, the filmmaking tandem known as Radio Silence, which opens tomorrow nationwide.

Most of the crew did not know they were abducting a “child” and none of them knew the identity of her father. They did not know each other, either. Lambert, their boss, is against giving them code-names, but he reluctantly assigns them Rat Pack handles. Amusingly, but all too believably, the significance is lost on most of the lowlifes.

“Joey” has military medical training, so she will be Abigail’s babysitter. The “young girl” will definitely not need medical treatment from her. The gang soon freaks out when “Frank,” their swaggering team leader, figures out Abigail’s father is a notorious Keyser Soze-like crime-lord. However, he is the least of their worries. It turns out the Rat Pack was intentionally trapped inside Lambert’s haunted mansion-like hideout, with the predatory Abigail.

The exact nature of Abigail’s lethalness is basically an open secret, but reviews are still supposed to refrain from spelling it out. Regardless, it is pretty clear she is more than a “Bad Seed.” She is an entire bad farm.

The fake Rat Pack also gets a good deal of laughs for their sociopathic snark and moronic meatheadedness. Dan Stevens (Cousin Matthew in
Downton Abbey) delivers a lot of the former, dipping back into his psycho trick bag from The Guest. Kevin Durand supplies most of the latter as the hulking “Peter.” William Catlett is appropriately hardnosed as the ex-military sniper, misnamed “Rickles.” The late Angus Cloud does another Eminem impersonation as “Dean,” but his obvious personality-dysfunction helps further complicate the poisonous group dynamic. The same is true of Kathryn Newton’s impressive freakouts as high-strung hacker “Sammy.”

Unfortunately, Melissa Barrera is supposed to slow-burn as the guilt-wracked Joey, but she is definitely the weakest, least defined member of the Rat Pack. She looks credible in the blood-drenched fight scenes, but that is about all she brings to the table. Frankly, the producers of the
Scream franchise really did not give up much when they fired her from their next film, because of what they justifiably described as her antisemitic “hate speech.” There are monsters in real life too.

Even with a mediocre lead, Radio Silence creates some wonderfully macabre atmosphere and stages some delightfully over-the-top carnage. The colorful supporting cast is terrific, including Giancarlo Esposito, who chews the scenery like a champ in his limited screentime playing Lambert. In its own weird way, the film points out the importance of personal responsibility. Whether they like it or not, each character will have to own up to their bad decisions and past sins.

might be the best horror movie released by a major Hollywood studio since Thanksgiving. It has a lot of snappy dialogue and attitude, as well as a ton of carnage. The use of “Swan Lake” in the opening scene is also a clever hat-tip to Tod Browning’s original Dracula. Highly recommended, Abigail opens tomorrow (4/19) in theaters nationwide, including the AMC Lincoln Square in New York.