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ABIGAIL is a new horror/thriller from the director Melissa Vitelloand writer Gunnar Garrett. Starring Ava Cantrell, Tren Reed-Brown, Hermione Lynch and Karimah Westbrook, the film promises strange violence when a teenage girl with a shady past moves to a new town with her mother, befriending her abusive neighbor. Of course, things take a violent turn, leaving the neighbor with a difficult choice.

We recently had the chance to chat with Melissa Vitello about the film, and she gave us some great insight into the making of it! Attention bullies!

Melissa Vitello

iHorror: Hi Melissa! What can you tell us about the movie, ABIGAIL? Without spoiling too much of course!

Melissa Vitello: ABIGAIL is about a young woman who moves to a new place with her mother to escape something we don’t know about, a past trauma. She moves to a small town in Alabama and befriends the boy next door who is about her age. She comes to discover that he is being bullied at school and that he has not been dealt the best hand in life. His mother abuses him. She takes him under her wing and starts standing up for him and telling him to stand up for himself. He is pushed a little further and becomes a little more insidious once he learns that Abigail is a serial killer and is faced with a decision to make about what kind of life to choose.

What attracted you to the project?

I am a fan and geek of all things CW. I spent so many years watching and reviewing The vampire diaries, and Gossip girl, looks like this. So, I like drama, action, YA and horror. I like that it had a kind of weird violent side to it, a kind of Tarantino kind of vibe. He’s one of my favorite directors, so I was excited to jump in and play with that energy a little bit.

The film stars Ava Cantrell, Tren Reed-Brown, Hermione Lynch and Karimah Westbrook. What was it like working together?

Was awesome! Ava and they have worked together before. I actually did a short film before this project and she’s great. She is a great collaborator. It was fun with Abigail because we kind of decided early on if Abigail was just a bad kid, or a sociopath, and we decided, no, she’s a sociopath. Every decision she makes is calculated and she’s not your average feisty teenager. She doesn’t understand it, or she doesn’t know how to be like that, but she’s very careful about what she has to do to come off like that and seem normal. We had a lot of very interesting discussions around this.

Same with Train. I mean it was his first acting gig. I think he’s been in a few smaller things, but this was his first film. He was so enthusiastic and so talented. He wanted so much to bring out the emotional side of Lucas and how he related to Abigail. There’s a lot to dissect, and Tren had a lot of fun doing it.

Where did you shoot and how long did it take?

We filmed in Oakdale, CA. The writer lives there.

What is one thing that was missing in the direction of this movie?

This was, I think, the biggest project I took on and there were a lot of moving parts. They were mostly night shots. I had about 10 days of night shooting. Very challenging, but most of the film is outdoors at night. So we had to keep everyone happy, awake and alert. It was a very big thing to take on. I think it tested everyone’s mind a little bit. I loved the experience of directing this. I really enjoyed peeling back the layers of these characters and finding the right shots and the right angles to tell the story.

Are you a producer, are you a director, but do you also write?


Of the three roles, which do you prefer?

They are all so different. I feel that I find myself in writing. This is how I communicate emotionally. I love being able to sit for hours and immerse myself in a story and figure out how to create an arc. But the direction is so interesting. To bring your story to life, there’s nothing like going on set for the first couple of days and seeing it all happen. It’s so surreal. That’s the magic of film. On the production side, I love being able to help artists actualize their vision. I’m a geek, but I love the logistics part. My production partner and I will touch a spreadsheet – so hard. We love spreadsheets and organizational charts. That’s a tough question because they’re all such a big part of my life.

If you had to sell my movie in one epic sentence, what would you say? Run on allowed sentences.

I would say in 1970s Alabama, a young girl moves to a small town to start over with her mother and becomes fascinated with the boy next door and develops a relationship. Going deeper, she realizes that she is a serial killer and must make a decision between a life of abuse or the love and kindness of a serial killer.

Who would you say was your biggest influence growing up? As for making movies?

I would probably say that The sixth Sense. M. Night Shyamalan. Because I remember the first time I saw him. I was always into Hitchcock and dark fantasy, The Neverending Story and Willow, and some darker, weirder stuff when I was a teenager. I have always loved to write. I was always telling stories. When I saw The sixth Sense it changed the way I saw storytelling. The way the movie made me feel so good at the end. I remember watching it with my family and at the end we all started to go back to the twist. I just didn’t realize you could do that with movies! You can just fool people like that. It was so profound to me how the answer was in front of you all the time, you just couldn’t see it. That really got me excited about how to explore storytelling.

Okay, so being a fan of the genre, if you could dive in and remake any horror movie – what would you choose?

I guess I would say the old one Haunting movie. I think it was in the 50s. They redid it, but it was terrible. The original was terrifying. I was so scared while watching him and nothing it happened. It could be all in this woman’s head, I loved that about the movie. She sees things, but you don’t see the things she sees, and other people are horrified by her reaction to these things that may or may not be real. Everything is so psychological and so well done. I like paranormal stuff. I think I’d like to redo that and see if I could do something just as terrifying but in a modern setting.

Is there anything else you want to mention, Melissa?

I’m working on something new. I am in development for my next screenplay which I hope to direct next year. It’s a paranormal horror film about past life regression hypnotherapy. It’s about these kids who lose one of their friends and find out that she was regressing in her past life and they open a portal to their past lives and who they were to each other in the past. To bring closure to this and stop the haunting, they must figure out who they were to each other and heal these crumbling relationships. Very excited about it. Is called The regression.

We will definitely be on the lookout for more information on this! Thanks so much for your time, Melissa!

Thank you!

Be sure to check out ABIGAIL! Now available on VOD courtesy of Dark Star Pictures!

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