What do you do if your parents start to smell delicious? This is one of the key questions that crop up in the Arnold Schwarzenegger film Maggie, a film that tackles the zombie genre in a very different light.
We’ve seen hordes of the undead shambling across countless landscapes in both movie and television shows but in this film, director Henry Hobson tries to narrow the focus down to one core element, “What would you do if someone you loved was infected?” Now of course the dilemma of a friend or loved one being bitten by a zombie is nothing new to the genre, it’s just that in the case of Maggie the emphasis is solely on that question and not so much the “survival horror” aspect found in most zombie movies. We actually find out little of what is going on in this world; some kind of crop plague is decimating the Midwest and a “necroambulist virus” outbreak that turns the infected into cannibalistic creatures, but other than a few news broadcast tidbits not much is explained. This is a small scale drama, not a big budget horror film.
The movie begins with Maggie Vogel (Abigail Breslin) having run away from home after contracting the virus and her father Wade Vogel (Arnold Schwarzenegger) desperate to find her and keep her safe. He manages to find her after she was picked up by the military and taken to a nearby hospital, even luckier for him is that the doctor on staff is a friend who allows Wade to take his infected daughter home. The American government has instituted quarantine for victims of the virus where once the disease has reached a certain stage the infected are placed into isolation wards for the duration of their very short and miserable last days. Locked up amongst mindless zombies is not something she looks forward to.
Wade loves his daughter and will do anything to keep her safe but this isn’t an 80s Arnie action flick, so don’t expect to see him strapping on bandoliers of 60 calibre bullets and mowing down zombies and evil government baddies. No, this is Arnold doing his best to prove that he isn’t just a musclebound action hero but an actual real actor, and he does a pretty good job here. Grizzled looking and world weary, this tortured father is completely relatable. Along with Maggie’s sympathetic stepmother Caroline Vogel (Joely Richardson) we get a good feel for this family tragedy. We do get a couple moments were Wade has to step up and kill “walking dead”, but in one case it’s the four year old girl from next door who he used to babysit.
It’s moments like this that give the film its emotional weight as more and more evidence smacks Wade in the face as to what he will eventually have to do as Maggie’s condition progresses. The only real downside of the film is that it does kind of go for a cop out ending when it would have been so much better if they hadn’t robbed us of the very thing this whole film was leading up to. The cast all do fine jobs but Abigail Breslin especially stands out as a young woman who, as her body begins to decay and family start looking tasty, has to deal with not only her own fears but of the fears of those around her as well. In conclusion this is certainly a film worth checking out as it takes the zombie genre in a very nice dramatic direction, but it really could have used a ballsier ending.