Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abigail Breslin, Joely Richardson
Written by: John Scott 3
Directed by: Henry Hobson
A farmer takes care of his daughter after she is bitten by a zombie, as she slowly begins the transformation from human to undead.
Directed by first time director Henry Hobson, Maggie is an extremely satisfying zombie film. In fact, it is the breath of fresh air the genre has needed since the spectacular Warm Bodies. While it does stumble occasionally, choosing to go the art house route in certain scenes, it firmly keeps itself planted in the drama category rather than choosing to give Schwarzenegger mini-guns and mowing down hordes of zombies. In fact, the biggest surprise of the film is Schwarzenegger and the fact that he does have some acting chops.
After the outbreak of the Necroambulist virus, which turns people into zombies and decimates crops, the country is on a state of alert. Curfews are in effect and the poor souls who have the virus are shipped off to quarantine zones, where the are effectively terminated (couldn’t resist) once they have turned. Maggie (Abigail Breslin) runs away from home to the city, gets bitten, and begins changing. Her father, Wade (Arnold Schwarzenegger) picks her up at the hospital and brings her home. Slowly, Maggie begins changing and Wade and his wife have to deal with her.
Make no mistake. Maggie is not a horror film. It is a drama taking place during horrific times. It firmly stays planted on Wade and Maggie’s relationship and the hardship he goes through as his only daughter from his first wife slowly begins to turn into a monster.
Which leads us to the most surprising aspect of this film. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Here he gives a rock solid performance as a farmer who is watching his daughter die and knows there is nothing that can save her. He is stoic, but you can see the pain in his eyes every time he looks at his daughter. As she begins to change, he tries to keep his family together and safe, but his daughter is turning into a flesh eating monster. His crops are failing, also. This is a man who’s whole world revolves around his daughter. And he knows she is dying. It is a quiet, powerful performance and extremely effective. You feel for this man; you feel his pain every time he looks at his daughter.
Despite being a strong dramatic film, it is not flawless. The film slowly parses out the information needed which actually makes it difficult to feel for these characters until near the end. In fact, I found myself wondering why Wade would jeopardize his younger children by bringing Maggie home. It isn’t until later in the film that you find out that the other children are his step children and Maggie is his only daughter from his first marriage. The film does deal with the step children by sending them to live with their aunt, but it was still a moment of confusion in the film. The film also occasionally goes into the artsy realm by filming scenes that do not fit with the aesthetic of everything else. It is actually a little jarring at times and I felt it actually detracted from the film.
Maggie is an amazing example of what can be done within the seemingly limited zombie horror genre. A quiet, slow burn dramatic film set during horrific times, the film doesn’t fire on all cylinders choosing to go the art house route occasionally and doesn’t provide all the information needed too effectively bond emotionally with these characters. Despite having some flaws, it is a wonderful film that should be seen. Just don’t expect a horror film.
*** out of ****
BIZZAM!! Fun Facts!
- The script was on the 2011 Black List of best unmade scripts.
- Chloe Grace Moretz was originally set to star as Maggie.
- This is Schwarzenegger’s lowest budgeted film since The Terminator in 1984.
- This is Abigail Breslin’s second zombie film. The first being the hilarious Zombieland.
- This is Schwarzenegger’s first zombie film.