When there’s even a semblance of trouble for their children, parents throw their paternal, protective cloak around them. If they know the child’s in harm’s way, they’ll go head on to divert the problem or ensure the child’s nowhere close. But what does a parent do when his daughter’s inflicted with a deadly virus that’ll turn her into a zombie in a couple of weeks?
Director Henry Hobson and writer John Scott 3 take this fantastic, improbable premise and turn into a believable, touching, and dark tale of a father’s struggle to deal with his daughter’s horrible affliction. Maggie, co-produced by actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, turns the classic zombie tale on its head a couple of times. For one, this is not your regular zombie movie. If it was, Arnold Schwarzenegger would have taken the entire zombie crowd down single-handedly. He would’ve raced against time to find a cure for his daughter, Abigail Breslin. There would have been tense moments, yes. But you’d be secure in the thought that with Arnold at the helm, all will be well, eventually. But Maggie is not your regular tale. It’s told from the point of view of the person who’s turning into a zombie and how she and her family, especially her father, try to cope. Hobson and cinematographer Lukas Ettlin paint a bleak, dark picture of a town that’s losing its folks rapidly to the Necroambulist virus. In their final stages, the victims are taken away to a quarantine zone where a painful cocktail of drugs and inevitable death awaits them. The movie is not about zombie attacks and folks running wild. It’s about the pain that the afflicted people feel. It’s about the choices that families have to make when faced with such a horrifying situation.
And there’s your other turn. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays not himself, but Wade Vogel, a regular hardworking farmer whose daughter Maggie Vogel is bitten and now showing symptoms that every family dreads. Schwarzenegger carries the movie on his shoulders superbly. But these are not superhuman shoulders. These are the weary, sick-with-worry shoulders of a father. These are worried, terrified shoulders. Never before has Arnold Schwarzenegger mined such emotional intensity in his roles. His eyes crinkle with pain, with grief, with the stubborn instinct of a father who doesn’t want to lose his daughter to the virus or the quarantine. He consumes the screen with his internal conflict of how to deal with his daughter, especially when it’s obvious that there’s’ only one option. And he’s superbly supported by Abigail Breslin. In Maggie, Abigail covers an entire range of gut-wrenching emotions – the horror of suffering, the terror of slowly succumbing to becoming a zombie, the fear of losing everything she knows, including her friends, her siblings, her father and her step mother. She makes you root for her, feel her pain, her horror. Joely Richardson plays Maggie’s step mom so well, she could be your next door neighbor, as she tries to be supportive, then gets increasingly terrified as she realizes she’s alone in house with someone who used to be her step daughter, but turning into a mortal danger for herself.
The movie is full of moments, none of them that make you jump in fear. There’s Maggie saying good bye to her friend, Allie (Raeden Greer) promising to meet her next week, both knowing that’s not going to happen. There’s Arnold heaving his axe to kill his neighbor and his daughter, both of whom have turned into zombies, but not been turned in by the wife/mother. When he looks at the small girl, Schwarzenegger’s eyes are filled with pain and the realization that his very own daughter is not far from this state. There’s Maggie sharing a beautiful moment with her father in the garage, set to a beautiful piano piece in the background score, composed by David Wingo. There’s another beautiful music piece when Arnold’s character burns his farm down – there’s waves of piano and violins that collide gently with each other and churn out a choral end.
Maggie is not an easy watch. It’s bleak, it’s dark. And it’s painful. Arnold Schwarzenegger will be back. But given that that there were only 10 people in the theatre, it’s unfortunately unlikely that it’ll be for a role such as Wade’s anytime in the near future. But a movie’s got to be something for showing that sometimes, the horror is undergoing emotional pain of being a horror to others and oneself, not in horrifying make up.
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Official trailer, Maggie: