Abigail Directors Radio Silence Talk Easter Eggs, Danzig Dances, and More

Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin address burning questions about their horror-comedy.

Thanks in large part to their success with Scream and Scream VI, directors Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin (collectively known as "Radio Silence," along with producer Chad Villella) earned the exciting opportunity to develop the horror-comedy Abigail, putting their signature spin on the world of classic Universal Monsters. While the premise of a vampire being unleashed in a gothic mansion might seem familiar on paper, the pair enlisted a talented ensemble of performers to deliver their razor-sharp and hilarious dialogue while also injecting buckets of blood to make for an experience that not only honors vampire classics but also puts an entirely fresh spin on the premise. Abigail is now available to watch at home exclusively on digital platforms from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

In Abigail, after a group of would-be criminals kidnap the 12-year-old ballerina daughter of a powerful underworld figure, all they have to do to collect a $50 million ransom is watch the girl overnight. In an isolated mansion, the captors start to dwindle, one by one, and they discover, to their mounting horror, that they're locked inside with no normal little girl.

ComicBook caught up with the pair to dive deeper into the movie, talking about their musical selections, Easter eggs, and future projects.

WARNING: Spoilers below for Abigail  

(Photo: Universal Pictures)

ComicBook: First things first, you both have to set the record straight: how did that Danzig song end up in this movie? I feel like you get a lot of Misfits songs in movies, and when you have Danzig, typically the go-to is "Mother" or something like that. So how did you land on getting "Blood and Tears" in Abigail

Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: So we had recorded that dance with just this rock version of "Swan Lake" because we knew we wanted it to be something more energetic and we knew that, at some point, we'd have to find a song, but that whole dance sequence actually was a work in progress. We decided to do it like, what, Tyler, a week before we shot it? 

Tyler Gillett: It was scripted originally as one line of action. "Sammy dances."

Bettinelli-Olpin: She spins around his dead body.

Gillett: Over Peter's dead body as Joey and Frank run in. And we were like, "Well, what if it was a full-on music video?"

Bettinelli-Olpin: So when we got into the edit, it was, how quickly can we start trying songs and figure out what's the right vibe here?

Gillett: We had the beats per minute, right? 

Bettinelli-Olpin: It had to be in that area. And, giant lifelong Danzig fan and Misfits fan here, it was the first song we tried. It's the right tempo, it's the right pace. It has that macabre, '50s prom vibe and I basically came in with what, Tyler, 20 songs? And it was like, "All right, let's listen to these." And that was the first one, me, Tyler and Mike, our editor listened to and we all went, "Yeah, that's pretty great."

Gillett: But it was like, "That's pretty great, but we'll beat it. We'll beat this. We will find something that'll beat it."

Bettinelli-Olpin: We never thought in a million years people would let us put a Danzig song in this movie, including Danzig. We had no idea if Danzig would let us put a Danzig song in this movie. So anyways, long story short, we then tried every other song ever written and kept coming back to how much we loved "Blood and Tears," and, at the end of the day, the studio got behind it, Danzig gave it his blessing.

Gillett: And when Matt says we tried everything, it was like [George Michael's] "Careless Whisper" at one end of the spectrum and King Diamond's "Abigail" at the other end of the spectrum. Those were the guardrails when we were searching for a track for that. And yeah, man, Danzig for the win. We say that it's amazing to us that the best inside jokes are the ones that ultimately make it across the finish line, and that's one of them. We were like, "There's no f-cking way. There's no way 'Blood and Tears'..."

Bettinelli-Olpin: There's no way.  

What's awesome is, if you just type in "Abigail Danzig song," it's a lot of people on Reddit being like, "What song is that?" Because you didn't choose one of the more obvious Danzig songs

Gillett: Love that. We love that sh-t, though. That's our aim with music, is that it feels familiar and it feels timeless and like, "Oh yeah, I think I've heard that," but you haven't. And so it gets you excited to explore and to dig in and to learn about new artists. That's always the aim for us. We get pitched, "Put in the pop song, put in the top 40 song, what's that version?" And we always try, right? Because it'd be great if one of those songs worked for a number of reasons, but it's funny, we've found that our tone has an allergy to that in a weird way. It's very strange.

Bettinelli-Olpin: I know we can talk about other things too, but we love this subject because we spend a ton of time on tracks.

Gillett: Let's not, let's just talk about Danzig.

Bettinelli-Olpin: But one of our touchstones for soundtracks is Pump Up the Volume because it's like all those great songs, but they're not the popular songs. I found so much music through that movie when I was a teenager, early teens, and I think it's trying to emulate something like that, where it's not just hits.

Gillett: Matt is not a teenager anymore.

Bettinelli-Olpin: I'm also not a teenager, believe it or not. 

See, this is why we all had to record this conversation so that Matt is on record saying, "I'm not a teenager." I know that when you were talking about this movie, doing some interviews, some outlets ran with one quote from one of you guys saying how every scene was filmed with a horror perspective and then filmed with a more comedic perspective, resulting in some blogs saying, "Abigail has two completely different versions out there." Could you shed a little bit more insight on that? 

Gillett: I mean, that's obviously the amplified version of that. I do think that you could cut any scene in any of our movies in one of those very narrow lanes, and I think it's our job to figure out how to make those things intersect and play well together. So I don't think it's necessarily that there's a comedy version or a straight horror version filmed. It's that what we film, it's a big enough net that it catches all of that stuff and that you can tailor the movie very simply into either of those tones. I think that what's fun to us is finding a way to mix them and make that mix something that's very unexpected and surprising. So it's sort of true, but also, I think it's really just about how we calibrate what the movie is in the edit. It's not like, "Hey, we're going to do the funny take, but then we're going to do the serious take." Those flavors are just very alive in everything, and it's really just about being selective.

Bettinelli-Olpin: Guardrails and calibration.

Gillett: Yeah, in the edit and putting those guardrails in place. 

It sounds to me like you're saying movie blogs exaggerated isolated pieces of interviews to generate more traffic?

Bettinelli-Olpin: You didn't hear that here.

Gillett: Let's not go down that path. 

I know Melissa [Barrera] had expressed, obviously she loves the movie, is super excited about the movie, but she expressed a little bit of disappointment about the ending where she doesn't get to go full vampire, and one version of the script she gets to go full vampire? So speaking to the ending, how many different versions were there? Was there one early on where she goes full vampire?

Bettinelli-Olpin: I don't remember that.

Gillett: She never turned. There was an ending, at one point, where it was Abigail and her dad watching Joey and her kid from afar, and it was very implied, like Abigail saying, "I think I would like a little brother," kind of a thing. And it was like, "Well, this is clearly going down this path," but I think that's as close as it ever got to her being...

Bettinelli-Olpin: I know Melissa got some teeth made for fun, but I don't think she ever actually got them.

Gillett: No, I don't think so. I don't think so.

Well, you should mail them to her. I don't think they will fit either of you.

Bettinelli-Olpin: We don't have them.

Gillett: We should have had teeth. We were like, "F-ck, why didn't we get fitted for teeth?" 

Bettinelli-Olpin: We got fitted for those tutus, but not the teeth. 

It's funny because my touchstone when Dracula shows up, I'm like, "Oh, it's that guy from Stoker." That's the thing that I recognized him from. Apparently he's on some TV show that the guy from The Guest [Dan Stevens] was also in.

Bettinelli-Olpin: Oh, yeah, Downton Abbey. "The Guest guy." The Downton Abbey guys.

Was there ever a point where, even just on paper, you speculated about some other people who you considered playing Dracula or was he literally the first and only name you went to?

Bettinelli-Olpin: It's funny, I feel like we went through so many versions of what that character could be because there were so many versions of the script that had different personifications of him and how he came through and how big and small that role was. 

Matthew [Goode] did not have to audition because we are mega fans, specifically, of his portrayal of Robert Evans in The Offer. It's like a 10 out of 10, if you haven't seen it. But when he said he'd do it ... Sometimes you're looking for something and then, at a certain point, it's like it fits the box and you go, "Oh, my God, there it is. That's it." And as soon as he said he was in or was interested or his name came to us, I don't really remember how that exactly happened, but we immediately went, "Oh, my God, he would be f-cking perfect." And then in our opinion, he nailed it and is.

Gillett: We needed somebody to ... The way that they carry themselves actually to bring a level of mystery and nuance to what that character is instead of this just big, brute force. There's something very graceful and ethereal and strange about how Matthew looked in the teeth and the costume. And I think it implies so many interesting little pockets of history and story that exist off-screen. I mean, look, I think what being a talent like him is, right? You bring that sense of it, feeling lived in, even if you're on-screen for a minute and 40 seconds or whatever that scene actually is, it was really wild to watch that come together. It's such a short amount of time, but so important and so essential to the end of the movie.

So that wasn't ever a bargaining chip with Danzig to get the song, like, "Oh, and you can be Dracula for this movie,"?

Bettinelli-Olpin: Oh man.

Tyler: Hair whip.

Bettinelli-Olpin: I'd love that version, not going to lie. 

When you said "big, brute force," I was like, "Oh, well that rules out Danzig." I think with Dan being named Adam Barrett [after filmmakers Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett], with the portrait of Henry's [Czerny] character from Ready or Not, and the song in the opening being an homage to the original Dracula, there's some Easter eggs in there. Are there ones that are so deeply buried that you're like, "How has nobody figured this out yet? Or how has nobody discovered this?" that now with the movie being out on VOD--

Bettinelli-Olpin: Available on a TV.

Available at home now.

Gillett: Available on screens that are not theater screens.

Bettinelli-Olpin: On a smaller screen.

With it being available on Apple Watches, is there an Easter egg that you are waiting to be discovered?

Bettinelli-Olpin: Well, there's the one that I was going to go to because I think, for us, it's really fun because we have the Henry portrait in the background, and then we also have Larry Fessenden, horror Icon, who did the voice of the DJ in an anthology we did a few years ago called Southbound. He reprised his role as the DJ, and you can hear him during the game room scene where they all get to know each other. So you can hear that same voice, it's so distinct and it just does something if you know the other movie.

Gillett: Then I think there's the Bela Lugosi license plate on Abigail's chauffeured car. The other license plates are the published date of the original Dracula. We love that, there's something so fun to us whenever there's a choice like that that needs to be made, why not make it cool and special and fit the puzzle? The math of what the movie is.

Bettinelli-Olpin: It's not an Easter egg because it became a big part of the movie, but to your point about making choices, that's what And Then There Were None was. We were just trying to think of, "What's a book...," and we were like, "Well, this is basically And Then There Were None."

Gillett: And you get the [Agatha] Christie story.

Bettinelli-Olpin: Let's just call it what it is. 

The other one, though, is that I don't think anybody's caught because it's only a couple of frames in the movie, is the truck that Angus [Cloud] drives behind to hide from the cameras is Harker Farms, and it's got a bunch of garlic. Harker is the character from the original [Dracula]. 

I've got to ask you about Escape from New York. Guys, what's going on? Last time I talked to you, it was, "Well, we're focusing on our original Dracula vampire movie." That's out of the way. What's the latest, are you guys still involved in it?

Gillett: We are not, unfortunately. I think titles like that have been around for a while, and I think they've tried to get that out of the blocks a few times. I think it's just ultimately a tricky rights issue thing. There's a clock on it and we just weren't in a position to make the clock, ultimately. But who knows? I think, in hindsight, it feels crazy that we would think that we'd, post-Scream, step into a John Carpenter franchise.

Bettinelli-Olpin: Psychotic.

Gillett: You never know, but we know that there's still interest in it, and we've had a few conversations about it, but we're not attached in the official capacity.

Well, that'll just free you up for Abigail 2. Or Devil's Due Part 2.

Gillett: There you go.

Bettinelli-Olpin: That's what we've been waiting for.

I know you've just been biding your time. You've just been doing these studio wins here and there just to be able to come back to Devil's Due. I knew it.

Gillett: Yeah, let's blow some wind into that sail. That's the right one, for sure. 

Abigail is now available to watch at home exclusively on digital platforms from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can contact Patrick Cavanaugh directly on Twitter.