Maggie is an ambitious movie with a great central idea. The film takes a genre which has been done many times before and tries to offer something new. Zombies are not new. Comedies have been produced, every type of zombie horror movie has been made and there have even been attempts at romantic comedies. What writer John Scott and Director Henry Hobson try to do is create a family drama with a zombie virus at the center.
It is a good idea. Abigail Breslin (from Little Miss Sunshine, making everyone feel old) is infected with a zombie virus and we watch as her family, and to some extent the local community, try to deal with her slow, inevitable deterioration. This isn’t a new concept but where movies like Still Alice did something similar with Alzheimers, Maggie does it with a zombie virus.
Unfortunately, audiences can’t relate to that like they could with real life diseases. This is a zombie movie and as hard as Hobson tries to move away from the usual horror movie stables that make zombie films so popular, it is also those tropes that make the movies interesting too. There is no swarms of zombies. There are few zombie attacks or “cattle-prod” moments you’d expect with a zombie film. In fact, there is little action at all.
There are moments which are interesting and the idea of trying to keep a “zombie daughter” away from the local community comes with it’s own obstacles but these don’t even play-out in particularly exciting ways, not really delivering on the promise and potential they contain.
It is a shame too because the world and concept that Maggie is set in holds a lot of potential. This isn’t an apocalypse with few survivors against hordes of zombies, this is a world where communities live alongside “the infected” and make it work with “quarantine zones” and health pamphlets. It is an interesting world to develop but has already been done in the excellent BBC show In the Flesh.
This movie isn’t a failure though and is never boring. Much of that is down to the other ambitious choice that Hobson makes, the casting of Arnold Schwarzenegger. This is a man known for action, violence and one-liners but here he is lonely, vulnerable and concerned. This is not a man taking on hordes of the un-dead to save his family but rather a man placing his life on hold to try and care for his dying daughter. It is a calmer, quieter role and completely against type. This works though and Arnie delivers a performance like no other and proves there may be a different direction for the actor to take rather than relying on old franchises and past glories.
It isn’t quite enough to deliver on the promise of the concept and although there are times when the movie elevates the tension, particularly with the final scenes involving Father and Daughter, it never quite gets the heart going or the sweat pouring with fear.
Overall, Maggie is ambitious and unique but doesn’t quite fulfill that promise. By removing the zombie-threat and focusing on the slow, painful deterioration of a family member, it sucks the tension and thrill out of the movie. It is still worth a watch for the great, different-style of performance from a vulnerable Arnold Schwarzenegger though.
Rating – 3
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