Radio silence on Abigail and the making of a modern film about universal monsters

Universal Pictures’ latest horror film Abigail is now available to watch on demand at home, for those who missed it at the theater or wanted to wait for a spooky movie night. The kidnapped vampire ballerina movie directed by Radio Silence filmmakers Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin is pretty crazy. a ride that doesn’t hold back and is a must-see for watch lists.

The directors recently sat down with io9 to talk about reimagining the Universal Monsters story and working with their killer ensemble, including Alisha Weir (Mathilde) as Abigail, the vampire ballerina, alongside a motley crew of thieves led by Melissa Barrera (Shout). The cast also includes Dan Stevens (Godzilla x Kong), Catherine Newton (Lisa Frankenstein), Giancarlo Esposito (The Mandalorian), Angus Cloud (Euphoria), William Catlett (Black Lightning), and Kevin Durand (Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes). We’ve had some spoilers, but there’s an advance warning for anyone who hasn’t seen the movie yet.

Sabina Graves, io9: When it was announced that you were making an as-yet-untitled Universal Monsters movie, I was like, “What’s it going to be?” What was the process with Universal: do they have a universal monster bible with all the classic mythology in their canon? Have you looked at different parts of the IP? And what made you choose the sons of Dracula’s daughter and ultimately use them as a starting point to do your own thing?

Tyler Gillett: What we learned early on with Universal is that while they appreciate and love these very specific monsters and properties, they are also very interested and excited about taking a new approach or adopting what these classic monsters could be. Even before dating Abigail, we went to launch a Creature from the Black Lagoon movie, and we were like, “Look, we love the original. We’re not really sure what a (different) version is that isn’t. The shape of water. So we’re going to offer you something that seems to be perhaps inspired by (Creature).” We presented this original film that ended up containing adjacent ideas, but with a completely new creature. They were like, “Yes, we love it and love this monster.” “So I kind of say that to show how interested and excited they are about the original ideas.

And so, while we were writing this, this script, called Removing Abigail at the time – already existed at Universal. That was really at the heart of the idea of ​​what we achieved. It’s a heist film hijacked by a vampire film. And that was just another example of how the studio loves the world of these monsters, but they’re trying to find a new way to access that lore. Throughout the process, Universal was great in guiding us to the most original, fun and interesting version of what the film and this monster could be.

io9: Some of my favorite scenes involve the introduction of the ensemble cast. They all worked very well. I loved how Melissa Barrera played Joey reading them in a way that seemed very Hitchcockian. Can you talk about the film’s casting and your ongoing collaboration with Melissa?

Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: I’m very happy to hear you like this scene, because for us it was the first day of filming. We were just meeting everyone and getting to know them, and they were getting to know each other. It was like a case of run and shoot for us. We were on a plane a few weeks later Scream 6 came out and we cast as we went along – and Melissa was the first piece of that puzzle. Because one of the things we liked about the script is that the characters are sort of unknown by design; every actor brought a ton of ideas and a ton of input to what these characters ultimately become. We joked a lot on set that it was like we were doing Breakfast Club, but a horror film. You fall in love with them even though they’re evil, and the first thing you see them do is kidnap a 12 year old, you know? But they all have so much humanity that it shines through, even when they’re complete assholes. I think there’s just something about that chemistry that makes us feel like we got really lucky with this casting.

Melissa Barrera

Picture: Universal images

Gillette: Yeah. I think specifically talking about that scene where Joey calls out to everyone, we say all the time that that’s the scene in the movie where the movie casts a spell on the audience. There are real characters in there, and it’s really about a dynamic between all these amazing, weird, wacky people.

io9: Of course. And I think it kind of sets that tone, to make the very violent and humorous moments of these characters all the more real and effective.

Gillette: So thank you for saying that. I think it’s an easy thing to say, “Well, let’s talk about vampire shit,” and all that doesn’t work if you don’t spend time falling in love with people who are in peril. And even if they’re not, even if they’re anti-heroes and they’re all morally bankrupt, caring about them and what happens to them is why this part of the movie works.

Bettinelli-Olpin: This is what we talked about a lot…Extraterrestrial as a structure that we sort of followed. Tyler and I, one of our favorite scenes in Extraterrestrial, in any movie, it’s when they’re all sitting around the table talking and you get to know these people. Being able to do something that even remotely mimics this idea of ​​”let’s put the characters at the forefront of this movie” is something that really appealed to us, and also something that scared us.

io9: Was there ever a time when you didn’t want to reveal that the monster was a vampire ballerina in the trailers? Many people were wondering, “Why did you give it away?” » Obviously, sometimes it’s not up to you – or did you see this reaction to a vampire ballerina as what attracted people?

Gillette: I think it’s in every movie that there’s always kind of a sliding door moment where you wonder, “Man, what would this version of marketing have been like and how would it have played out?” We knew Alisha (Weir) in that blood-covered costume was going to be so iconic that there was no way it wouldn’t be used. There was no quicker way to get the word out about the tone and crazy absurdity of the film than using this image. It was like it was clear that this was going to be the stickiest thing. And then I think ultimately what that meant was that our job was to do all the scenes that precede and follow that twist – which isn’t necessarily one, if you have it seen and if you saw it in the trailer. – really matters, and is interesting and essential to the story.

Image from the article titled Radio Silence on Abigail and the making of a modern film about universal monsters

io9: Amazing. And just to touch on a big spoiler here. I honestly think I thought Dan Stevens was going to be Dracula or the father character. And when Matthew Goode appears as the father at the end, it was hilarious to see him because of the Downton Abbey connection. Was it on purpose? But also what made Matthew Goode the perfect choice for this character, and can you confirm if it’s Dracula or not?

Gillette: We can confirm that he was Dracula in previous versions of the storyline.

Bettinelli-Olpin: We ultimately decided that we didn’t want to emphasize it so much, that it didn’t quite fit the story we were telling. But we still wanted the father to come and have a lot of grace, but a lot of gravitas. You had to pack a lot into a very short time as a character built like this mythical crime boss. And I think for us, Matthew just achieved that goal because he’s so stylish, he’s so classy, ​​but he’s also creepy and a little weird. And it all comes across in such a simplified way, in the way he comes on stage. He is able to do so much in such a short time. And the fact that we have two Downton Abbey guys, it was an afterthought; it was like, “Okay, this is kind of funny.” How has Downton Abigail was not done? But Matthew came in, only shot for a day, but it was a real privilege to work with him because he was great.

Dan Stevens

Picture: Universal images

io9: Yes, and I was still fortunately happy to see Dan as a vampire because he gave Almost dark Severen (Bill Paxton’s character) atmosphere.

Gillette: When we were shooting that scene, I mean, (Stevens) revealed Lambert’s (Giancarlo Esposito’s character) outburst, we were like, we were just bursting at the seams. Almost dark with this involuntarily. But it’s one of those things where you’re like, “Oh, the influence is so much in us” that we can’t help but pay homage to it in some way.

Bettinelli-Olpin: Once the blood turned his glasses into sunglasses, we were like, “Oh, here we are.” Near the darkness, we have arrived.

Abigail is now available for sale or rental digitally from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

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