Director: Henry Hobson
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abigail Breslin, Joely Richardson, Aiden Flowers, Carsen Flowers, Jodie Moore, Douglas M Griffin, J.D. Evermore, Bryce Romero, Raeden Greer
UK cinema release: 24th July from Vertigo
UK DVD/Blu-Ray release: 23rd November from Universal
The world has fallen prey to a deadly disease that turns sufferers into ravenous undead. There is no cure. However, unlike the bafflingly speedy infections of other zombie movies, in this film the disease takes an average of six to eight weeks to claim victims. The authorities are in control of the situation but the number of infected is placing a huge demand on resources. As such, individuals with the disease are processed into horrific quarantine pens.
Maggie (Abigail Breslin) is a teenager who has contracted the virus. The film opens with her father, Wade (Arnold Schwarzenegger), walking into a quarantine unit to collect her after the family doctor has pulled some strings to allow Maggie home to spend time with her family before the end.
Upon getting back to the house we see her half-brother and half-sister bid her a sad farewell before they head off to live with their aunt. Quite understandably, Maggie’s step-mother Caroline (Joely Richardson) is concerned for their well-being but still wants to be there for her husband and the girl she has raised as her own in the tough times ahead.
Caroline isn’t the only one to have her reservations, as local lawmen Ray (Douglas M Griffin) and Holt (J.D. Evermore) aren’t pleased at having a walking biological hazard in the community either.
What follows is an in depth look at the physical and emotional trials Maggie faces as she draws closer to what scientists call The Turn. But what will Wade do when his little girl is lost to him forever? Will he endanger his life and those of the people around him through his undying father’s love?
When you imagine a zombie movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger you can’t help but picture a campy, high-octane, blood, brains ‘n’ bullets action romp.
Maggie is not that film.
This is first and foremost, a character study. It is barely a zombie film if the truth be told. A couple of heart-stopping encounters aside, there is very little in the way of brain-chewing undead. Much like the film’s ‘Necroambulist’ (see what they did there?) virus, this is a story prepared to move at a slower pace than a lot of zombie horror movies. Gorehounds should perhaps look elsewhere.
It could be seen as something of a gamble casting Arnie (who hasn’t exactly set the box office on fire since his full-time return to acting) in such a serious role, but a couple of clunky line deliveries aside, he is mostly up to the task of portraying the terrible turmoil his character is feeling.
The rest of the cast are uniformly superb, but special praise must go to the excellent Moore as Dr Vern and Oscar-nominee Breslin. She should already be familiar to genre fans for her roles in Zombieland, Haunter and TV’s Scream Queens, and for good reason – she is a revelation. Her chemistry with the Austrian Oak is astonishing and her subtle performance portrays complex emotions with ease. She really is the star of this film.
This is Henry Hobson’s first feature directing gig and it is an impressive début. The film has a washed out look, echoing the deathly pallor of the title character and tells its tragic story in a way that grips the viewer as it inexorably leads to the gut-wrenching climax. There are interesting sub-plots along the way, especially that of Maggie’s ex boyfriend and fellow infected Trent (Bryce Romero), but at its heart this is a story about a father and his daughter.
Saying this is a sad film might be an understatement. A warning to parents: this hits hard. I’ve never seen a cinema as morosely silent at the end of a film as I did when Maggie’s credits started to roll. It is not a date movie, but it is incredibly powerful, intelligent and moving — you NEED to see it.
I never imagined that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s tears could possibly entertain as much as his muscles, but Maggie proves that I was wrong.