Maggie (2015) / Drama-Horror

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for disturbing thematic material including bloody images, and some language
Running Time: 95 min.

Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abigail Breslin, Joely Richardson, J.D. Evermore, Bryce Romaero
Director: Henry Hobson
Screenplay: John Scott 3

Review published May 8, 2015

Maggie is a zombie movie that feels as though it were directed by David Gordon Green in one of his phases when he channels Terrence Malick, with its washed-out color scheme and soft-focus lensing.  And it might be the lowest budgeted Arnold Schwarzenegger film (under $5 million) since... Pumping Iron?  It's a real slow burn of a zombie flick, and plays things very straight forward through, concentrating more on the angst of a family suffering from the knowledge that their loved one will most certainly pass away, trying to ignore the obvious illness, and also knowing that it won't end well for her.

Arnie (The Expendables 3, Sabotage) stars as Midwestern farmer Wade Vogel, whom we meet early on bringing his lost-now-found teenage daughter Maggie (Breslin, Ender's Game) back home with a nasty bite on her arm that's ominous for reasons more than mere chance of gangrenous infection.  You see, she has been bitten by someone infected by a deadly virus that turns victims to zombies after a couple of months, and without any sign of a cure yet discovered, the best Wade can hope for is to have enjoy what little time he has together with Maggie before she has to be taken in for quarantine (aka, death).

Methodical and pensive aren't the words that might come to mind for most people looking to catch any zombie flick, especially one starring Schwarzenegger, so I'll expect a certain kind of disappointment for some who undertake Maggie due to expectations of a more fun film than this ends up being.  Though the horror genre elements are certainly there, first-time director Henry Hobson, a graphic designer and director of commercials by trade, plays this more like a moody family drama about the grief that overwhelms a tight-knit clan who are merely waiting for the afflicted to get to that point of no return in their ailment when they are no longer "themselves".  It's a movie about the preparation for 'letting go', and the heartbreak that occurs as the disease manifests in a very real way, even though everyone would like to just ignore its very existence.

Schwarzenegger's performance is...well, it's neither a plus or a minus.  These days, that's about as positive an assessment as he's likely to get.  He's not really the same in his post-Governor days.  But it's still nice to see him try something he hasn't done before, rather than continue to labor to return to his former glory in action vehicles that are growing as increasingly antiquated as its star.  His face is mostly stoic throughout, but that lack of emotion works in his favor as he has to contemplate what the end might be for his beloved daughter, wondering if it is a mercy for him to be the one to deliver the fatal blow, knowing he'll have to live with that tragic memory the rest of his days.

This is one of those borderline calls for me, as much of Maggie is, frankly, pretty dull, but I also find Abigail Breslin's portrayal increasingly affecting, and by the end of the film, which carries with it a certain amount of quiet, graceful power, I do end up caring for her plight, even if it seems there is not going to be a happy ending to be found for her condition.  It's not scary, it's not thrilling, and it certainly isn't funny in the slightest, leaving the recommendation for this film mostly limited to those viewers who want to see a different take on a a horror staple -- the expressonist art-house zombie pastiche.

Qwipster's rating:

2015 Vince Leo