One reason zombies endure as one of the most—if not the most—prolific of movie monsters is the almost embarrassing metaphorical range they represent. So, really, there are two reasons to make a movie with zombies: Be amongst the constant crush of cheapie straight-to-VOD flicks that exist only because there’s a guaranteed buck to be made from a proven trend, or demonstrate a minimum amount of storytelling ambition and include your brain-chewers as commentary on an almost endless number of topics (George Romero’s Living Dead trilogy, 28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead, et al). Henry Hobson’s morose family tragedy, Maggie, features zombie-ism incidentally, seemingly with nothing on its mind other than witnessing its characters suffer.
After running away from home upon learning she’s one of the “infected,” Maggie (Abigail Breslin) is pursued by her father, Wade (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who’s intent on retuning her back to their rural Kansas farm, so she can live the remainder of her days amongst her family and friends. Her choice to flee to the city (presumably Kansas City) into its quarantine zone would be a pretty miserable way to go, but Maggie’s a brave girl, and was merely trying to spare them both heartache and, y’know, keep them out of bite range when her transformation completes. Selfishly undermining her choice is Schwarzenegger’s improbable Midwestern farmer dad who, despite his unshakable Teutonic accent, is surprisingly effective portraying a haunted, powerless man.
It’s difficult to know if Arnie’s dramatic performance is something of a revelation because of his long, muscle-y career doing anything but, or because Hobson’s distracting, constantly under-lit shots oversell the bleak-as-hell tone. But it’s probably fair to give the former action star some props (other than shotguns, I mean), as he does pair well in scenes with his onscreen daughter—particularly as they share in the more intimate one-on-one moments where they aren’t desperately defending the other. Breslin, a truly gifted young actress, delivers a bracing performance, rendering the portrait of a courageous young lady, facing her terminal illness with equal parts grace and understandable dread.
On the strength of the leads’ performances—as well the semi-original setting in which the zombie apocalypse is relatively (and somewhat refreshingly) contained—Maggie nearly warrants a recommendation. But, honestly, who in their right, un-zombified mind would want to sit through an hour and a half of just the scenes after which Old Yeller contracts rabies? Treat yourself to the “fun” of Elephant Man instead.
Director: Henry Hobson
Writers: John Scott 3
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abigail Breslin, Joely Richardson
Release Date: May 8th, 2015 (Limited; VOD)