I don’t write a lot of movie reviews and I don’t generally watch movies, tv shows or read books about zombies. No, I am not on the Walking Dead bandwagon since I gave up at the end of season one. I find the whole zombie post-apocalyptic human survival thing about as entertaining as sparkly vampires.
I decided however to take a chance on ‘Maggie’ which was on Amazon Prime. It is a little known Arnold Schwarzenegger …(yes zombie film) from 2015. It is also starring the always wonderful and ever tormented Abigail Breslin who continues to impress me as an actress. At first, I was suspicious because it was, after all, a zombie film and sometimes Arnie’s movies can be a little….underdeveloped and his acting skills a little generic I guess you could say. I have to say I was very wrong. This underappreciated film could easily be put in my top 5 for Arnolds movies. It shows a side of him rarely seen, that being an emotionally complex and tormented individual and father.
Here is the plot of the movie according to IMDB:
“A teenage girl in the Midwest becomes infected by an outbreak of a disease that slowly turns the infected into cannibalistic zombies. During her transformation, her loving father stays by her side.”
It sounds simple, right? But the way this movie was filmed was so far from simple it was brilliant. It reminded me of the emotional feeling I felt and saw in The Grey Starring Liam Neisen. Why use an overdone script and monotonous dialogue when so much can be said without using words at all. In Maggie, Abigail Breslin plays the title character Maggie and is the daughter of Arnolds, Wade Vogel. There is a necrovirus (zombie virus) that is ravaging the nation and world along with a disease killing crops needed for food for the non-infected. Humanity is struggling to survive while maintaining its own humanity and decency. This is, in a way, a film about the “other” side of zombie films that gets overlooked for the sake of gore.
In the film Breslin’s character is bitten by a zombie (only shown in flashbacks). There is a process for quarantine and control going on to prevent the spread of the disease in which the infected must be checked out frequently. Arnolds character Wade drives to a big city to retrieve his daughter and bring her home for the two weeks in which it takes her to fully turn. The thing I liked about this movie was that it was wasn’t a typical zombie movie. Perhaps it showed a more human side of a zombie situation. In fact, you only saw 3 zombies in the whole movie who were killed by Wade and only one’s death was actually shown. You also a zombie child something I am told is somewhat rare and I haven’t seen yet.
You really got an idea of what Breslin’s character, a teenager, was going through as she gradually became less human. The emotional and physical toll it took as she watched herself change, saw her father’s struggles and her coming to grips with the life she was losing and the stark and certain future ahead of her; that she would be killed one way or the other. It, of course, used some traditional zombie themes and ideas but carried them out slowly and emotionally almost like the victims had cancer as opposed to something that turned them fast like in most zombie films and tv shows.
We see a grizzled Wade (Arnolds character) going from hope to reluctance as he comes to terms with what will happen to his daughter and untimely knowing he will have to kill her ( but that’s not how it ends). His wife played by Joely Richardson does her best to be supportive but as the disease spreads in Maggie so does her fear of her stepdaughter.
This movie is filled with awesome close ups of both characters, wide shots and blended with a truly wonderful score (that also reminded me of The Grey) which enhanced the scenes and like I said removed any need for too much dialogue or even a monologue.
In one amazing scene, we see Wade go to a neighbor’s house after he killed her infected family in the woods. This neighbor had kept her husband and young daughter locked up in a room after they were bitten so they weren’t killed by the authorities. Wade goes into this room and sees the carvings on the wall written by the woman’s husband in what were perhaps his last moments of humanity.
Perhaps he was trying to remain human and fight the disease. After Wade touches the words he turns thinks and then in extreme close-up we see a single tear roll down Wades grizzled and bearded face as he finally realizes this will be his daughter’s fate as well. It was a turning point in the film where his hope was replaced with a sad reality and shows a father’s pain.
In another scene towards the end, we see Wade sleeping in a chair in his living room while his daughter is upstairs asleep. Maggie who is nearly fully turned comes down the stairs, her skin blackened, eyes pale and having that familiar zombie wheeze. With typical jerky zombie movements, she begins smelling her father’s face and head who we think is asleep until we see a close-up of his hand slowly tightening its grip on the shotgun on his lap. Just when you think she is going to bite her father or we will see Wade shoot his daughter she gently kisses him on the head as if she was kissing him goodbye in one of her own final moments of human awareness. I won’t tell you what happens next but I wasn’t expecting It and it was supremely good filmmaking.
This was a serious movie and a far cry from the gore fest or campy nature of most zombie movies. The only thing I didn’t understand was there was almost constant thunder in the background but it never actually stormed and this was never explained but added to the effect of some scenes. Like I said this movie is worth watching if you like movies with strong visual and emotional depth and development. In all honesty this is the zombie movie I have been waiting for. If you are looking for a gore fest this is NOT that movie.
I noticed one thing in this film. How come no one ever brings up Arnolds noticeable accent in his movies?
Overall I give this movie 4 stars.