Syfy Insider Exclusive

Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, sweepstakes, and more!

Sign Up For Free to View

Abigail Directors Reveal the Method to Their Vampire Madness

Find out how the directors brought to life a new twist on the vampire look. 

By Tara Bennett

Spoilers for Abigail below!

Abigail in action is a sight to behold. The concept of a 12-year-old ballerina vampire is the brainchild of Abigail writers Stephen Shields and Guy Busick and directing duo Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillet. In the film, she's embodied by Irish actress Alisha Weir, who is grace personified when she dons her ballerina slippers and then pure feral energy when it's time to feed.

RELATED: How are the Reviews For Abigail? Why Critics Are Calling New Horror Film "An Absolute Revelation"

On a broader scale, technically, Abigail is the latest vampire iteration to be added to Universal Picture's pantheon of Universal Monsters, which itself is quite the achievement for modern horror storytellers Bettinelli-Olpin, Gillet, and company. Curious about how you even approach trying to carve a unique space in a horror genre that's been explored to death, SYFY WIRE sat down with the Abigail directors and actors Weir, Dan Stevens, and Kathryn Newton to talk about their creative swings.

How do you plant a fresh vampire flag in 2024?

Abigail (Alisha Weir) dances in a tutu in Abigail (2024).

Sweet and innocent on the outside, but in truth a centuries-old monster inside, that clash of imagery is one of the chief motivators that Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillet followed in their explorations of how to introduce a new kind of vampire to audiences. 

"We went into this very much thinking about how can we do our version of vampire things without being super beholden to everything that came before. While also acknowledging everything that came before so that [we] and the characters in the movie have at least a cursory understanding of the characters," Bettinelli-Olpin told SYFY WIRE. "Or, they think they do. And then how can we just upend that and play with it throughout."

RELATED: Abigail vs. M3GAN? Abigail Directors Have "No Complaints" if a Horror Crossover Happens Eventually

They said the design of Abigail — her ballerina gear juxtaposed with her bloody mouth full of fangs — was a great starting point in subverting expectations. 

"A mouthful of terrifying teeth was like number one, and we talked a lot about it," Gillet said of their exploration process. "We had a lot of mock ups. We did a lot of drawings to try to land on what we ultimately ended up going with. We talked a lot about wanting her to feel really animalistic and for those teeth to feel like they were there to serve a very particular purpose. 

"And then I think that the big conversation that we had, and we kept having, was to make sure that it felt like it was something that we could achieve practically at all times," Gillet continued. "That the dialogue could happen with the teeth. That Alisha could move freely with the contacts and the teeth, and that the costume was never restrictive so we could just capture [her] in camera, in long takes; that was really a guiding principle in a lot of respects for what the design of that creature was. We knew we wanted it to feel real and like a character that lived in a real space. We can't say enough about the team — hair, makeup, costume — that came together to design this very iconic villain."

Bettinelli-Olpin on how Alisha Weir helped them lock the whole concept of Abigail

Joey (Melissa Barrera) and Abigail (Alisha Weir) pinky promise in Abigail (2024).

At just the tender age of 14, Weir has trained in dance and performed in musicals like Matilda. But it wasn't until Abigail that the young actress was asked to top line a film, much less an R-rated horror film she's technically not even allowed to go see in theaters without a parent or guardian. 

Asked how she was able to pull off the two sides of the Abigail character, Weir said that, "There's the kid whose game is trying to convince you that she is the sweet, innocent girl. And then also the side which is the Abigail who's been living for centuries. So I kind of had to think in the mind that I have been living centuries. I wasn't thinking of myself like I was Alisha, a 14-year-old-girl," she explained. "I was putting myself in Abigail's character so that I was living centuries, and that it didn't cross my mind who I really was when I was getting into the character and when I was in the scene. Preparing for that, I was just fully trying to commit to Abigail and fully trying to leave myself out of the picture."

Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillet said Weir achieved a performance far beyond their hopes. "It's like we felt like we won the lottery," Bettinelli-Olpin said of casting the young actress. "Like the scene where she's in the cage and talking, that to us was one of those scenes where we were like, 'Oh, we've got 10 pages of dialogue here. This is gonna be a thing.' And then Alisha came in and just knocked it out of the park, every single take. And it was incredible to watch. I think us, the crew, and everybody watching it that day was like, 'Who is this magician over here?'"

Dan Stevens and Kathryn Newton suffer for their vampiric art

Sammy (Kathryn Newton), Peter (Kevin Durand) and Frank (Dan Stevens) hold weapons in Abigail (2024).

Two more actors in the ensemble cast, Dan Stevens and Kathryn Newton, also get to explore their dark sides in unique ways as the story progresses. For Stevens, this is the third vampire project he's taken — after Vamp and Dracula — but his first film with the Radio Silence producing collective. 

"Increasingly, I try and choose projects by filmmaker. And this was an opportunity to get to work with Radio Silence, who make a particular kind of horror that I'm very fond of," Stevens explained. "It really leans into the comedy. It turns up the gore to 11, but also is very, very funny and has these broadly drawn characters that are very, I don't know...I wouldn't say they're relatable. But they're you just sort of love to hate them. Frank is a particular kind of a--hole that you just want to see really put through some some sh-- and that's what you get," he said about his character's fate.

As Frank succumbs to a vampiric fate, Stevens said he got to go big within the crazy confines of the film's premise. "The situation is sort of inherently ridiculous," the actor said of the film. "This motley group of people stuck in a house being chased by a 12-year-old vampire ballerina. So there was no point at which I was going to take this super seriously. And it was nice to feel that energy met with everybody in the cast, with Matt and Tyler really encouraging that. It's like, 'Yeah, guys, this is ridiculous. And let's have fun!'"

RELATED: Kathryn Newton Shows Off a Pool Full of Bodies in Tour of the Abigail Set

Newton had it a bit harder, as her hacker character Sammy has to literally swim in the leftover spoils of Abigail's frequent feedings. The scene exists to make audiences squirm, and the actual set did the same for Newton. "I was speechless the first time I saw it," she admitted.

"I think I read the script and thought, 'Oh, this will be cool.' And I didn't know it was going to be that serious. I really didn't," she said. "I think movies are magical in that way. Like they have ideas, and then they have a mood board and then they have a script. And then suddenly, you're in a pool of dead bodies. I genuinely was speechless.

"Matt and Tyler I think didn't know what to say to make me get excited about it," she continued about the shoot day. "But I just knew that it was an opportunity for the fans and the audience. And I was like: 'Kathryn, do something.' And I don't think I had to do much except survive. Any struggle you see going on was real. The hardest thing I've ever done."

Abigail is now in theaters. Click here to grab your tickets!