Arnold Schwarzenegger makes a zombie movie! He’s going to be blowing the undead away left, right and centre, while mumbling memorable catchphrases, isn’t he? Actually, no, as this is something very different both for the Terminator and for zombie flicks. Except for the undead, this is Arnie in a small-scale mother-daughter indie melodrama, with fairly little action and much soul-searching.
Schwarzenegger is Wade Vogel, who’s living with his wife and kids in the middle of nowhere, where they’ve managed to escape a zombie plague that has affected millions. After his eldest daughter, Maggie (Abigail Breslin), gets bitten and infected, he goes to pick her up from quarantine to take her home, knowing that while she will be okay for a while, eventually she will turn and have to be taken away before she turns completely – assuming she doesn’t die before then.
The film then charts Maggie’s slow decline, with her stepmother (Joely Richardson) worried that having her around is dangerous, while Wade tries and fails to come to terms with his daughter’s imminent demise.
It’s certainly a different take on a zombie movie (interestingly director Henry Hobson has previous undead experience as he created the titles for The Walking Dead), which is far quieter and more contemplative than most. Indeed, it is perhaps a little too quiet and contemplative for its own good, as there are long patches which are just a little bit dull. It’s a movie that wants to take its time to build the father-daughter relationship and explore them dealing with the knowledge of imminent death, but despite a surprisingly strong performance from Arnie and Abigail Breslin acting her heart out, there’s not a vast amount of character development, which means that when it reaches its inevitable conclusion, it’s a tad underwhelming.
Maggie isn’t a bad film, but it spends a lot of time effectively creating a dark, melancholic and melodramatic mood and then doesn’t quite have the dramatic pathos to back it up. There are plenty of good ideas though, and as a viewer it’s easy to appreciate the way it uses the zombie plague to explore ideas of loss and dealing with terminal illness. It’s also great to see Arnie doing something different – especially as he proves surprisingly adept at it – but while not undead, Maggie never properly comes to life.
Overall Verdict: A different type of zombie movie and a different type of Arnie movie, but it’s interesting ideas don’t quite translate into a great movie.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac