“Abigail” and “Scream” team 'want to punch people in the face' with horror

From "Ready or Not" to "Scream" to "Abigail," the filmmaking trio known as Radio Silence continues to make a lot of noise.

When you want your horror movie to make a lot of noise, you embrace Radio Silence.

The filmmaking collective of Tyler Gillett (director), Matt Bettinelli-Olpin (director), and Chad Villella (producer) have an innate sense for what will go viral, whether it's inspiring a legion of Halloween costume-goers to don tattered wedding dresses and shotgun bullet slings (thanks to 2019's Ready or Not), or bringing a long-dormant franchise back from the dead (shoutout to 2022's Scream). In the case of this year's Abigail (out this weekend), it's all about the vampire ballerina.

Perhaps this instinct comes from how this particular trio of horror hitmakers got their start: making videos on YouTube. "Honing those skills in short form was vital because we did have to capture people's attention quickly or else we'd lose them to a video of a cat," Villella tells Entertainment Weekly.

"By the way, great," Bettinelli-Olpin comments.

"We still might!" Villella adds.

<p>Scream: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures; Abigail: Bernard Walsh/Universal Pictures; Ready or Not: Eric Zachanowich</p> Scream (2022), Abigail, Ready or Not

Scream: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures; Abigail: Bernard Walsh/Universal Pictures; Ready or Not: Eric Zachanowich

Scream (2022), Abigail, Ready or Not

Back in those early days in the late '00s, Villella and Bettinelli-Olpin joined forces with director Rob Polonsky to form Chad, Matt & Rob. (Justin Martinez was also a member for a time, and Gillett would join later.) The group spread all sorts of pranky hijinks over the internet, though their most popular work online remains "Roommate Alien Prank Goes Bad."

Posted 16 years ago in 2008, the video has more than 34 million views on YouTube and is still a good prelude to the filmmakers Gillett, Bettinelli-Olpin, and Villella would become as Radio Silence. Bettinelli-Olpin and Polonsky scare their roommate, Villella, in his sleep with fake alien getups because he's deathly afraid of extra-terrestrials. Then the twist comes: the online bit gets a scare when they discover an actual alien has landed in Villella's room, and all three have to react quickly.

"Our journey through the YouTube landscape was very much a reaction to other stuff on YouTube at the time," Bettinelli-Olpin recalls. "When we started doing it in 2007, 2008, everything was sketch comedy-ish. So we decided that we really didn't want to do sketch comedy. We wanted to go in a different direction. For us, there was something about introducing horror that really surprised people."

"We wanted to make sure that you got in on something that was immediately subverted, and then you are watching something else," Villella adds. "We knew the competition had the ability to go and look at another video if we didn't hook them in the first couple seconds. So I think we really want to punch people in the face right at the beginning."

<p>Bernard Walsh/Universal Pictures</p> Angus Cloud, Kathryn Newton, Kevin Durand, Dan Stevens, Melissa Barrera, and Will Catlett in 'Abigail'

Bernard Walsh/Universal Pictures

Angus Cloud, Kathryn Newton, Kevin Durand, Dan Stevens, Melissa Barrera, and Will Catlett in 'Abigail'

That defines Radio Silence's current run of horror films, especially their most recent. In Abigail (out this weekend), a man named Lambert (Giancarlo Esposito) hires a group of criminals with various skill sets — medic Joey (Melissa Barrera), ex-cop Frank (Dan Stevens), hacker Sammy (Kathryn Newton), career sniper Rickles (Will Catlett), muscle man Peter (Kevin Durand), and wheelman Dean (Angus Cloud) — to kidnap the daughter of an infamous crime boss. They are to hold her at a safe house overnight and wait for the pick-up the next morning. However, the little girl, Abigail, turns out to be an ages-old vampire who starts picking off the crew one by one.

And because she was kidnapped shortly after a ballet performance, Abigail does so in blood-caked tights. "Abigail is a bloody vampire wearing a tutu. We work with an idea until we arrive at that thing that makes us all go, 'Oh s---! That's great,'" Gillett says. "Whenever that appears on screen, you're just aware of the tone; you're aware of exactly what this film wants to be and what it's trying to do."

Barrera, who is now friends with Radio Silence from working with them three times (Scream, Scream VI, Abigail), says there are a few things that will always be a part of one of their projects. "They love blood," she says. "They love blood, and they love sweat on actors. When actors look disheveled and sweaty and dirty and bloody, they love that. So I know that it's going to be a lot of that, which I also love. So check, check."

She also knows that, no matter what, it'll be a fun set. "They're not the directors that are sitting in their high chair and not interacting," Barrera notes. "They're in there with everyone."

<p>Philippe Bosse/Paramount Pictures/Everett</p> Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega in 'Scream VI'

Philippe Bosse/Paramount Pictures/Everett

Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega in 'Scream VI'

Radio Silence left the Scream franchise in 2023 to make Abigail, even after they reignited the fanbase with Scream and Scream VI. They previously spoke about how production company Spyglass wanted to move quickly on another film, which conflicted with their plans for Abigail. The group retains executive producer titles on the upcoming seventh movie, but they confirm to EW that it's just a vanity credit and they are not involved.

"We have a ton of love and respect for the team," Gillett explains. "They gave us that title as, I think, a thank you for being such an instrumental part in bringing that franchise back to audiences, but that is as far as our engagement goes."

They look back on their Scream experience as a key moment when they had to adapt their sensibilities to fit the rules of a franchise. "We felt so much that the same tone and the same subversion that is in the DNA of Scream is also in the DNA of the way we like to make things, which, to be honest, we probably got a lot of that from Scream to begin with," Bettinelli-Olpin says.

They see the fifth Scream entry as their film for everyone else who loves the franchise. The film introduced Barrera as Sam Carpenter, the daughter of first Scream villain Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich), who finds herself back in Woodsboro, Calif., to protect her sister (Jenna Ortega's Tara) from a newly emerged Ghostface killer. With Scream VI, which moved the setting to an entirely new location, New York City, Radio Silence felt, "Now let's do our version that is wholly our taste and isn't beholden to anything," Bettinelli-Olpin says. "That was a nice stepping stone towards Abigail."

After Scream, Radio Silence feels like they're getting back to basics, in a way. Gillett talks about how Abigail has the same kind of energy as Ready or Not — not to mention both films center on characters who must survive the night while trapped in an expansive manor. "We can really be guided by what we think is the funniest, weirdest, scariest, most emotional. We were never worried about the rules of any existing stories in any lineage," he explains. "We were free and clear to be as weird and have as much fun as possible."

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