Maggie has a refreshing enough premise to carry the movie regardless, but it is a slow and disappointing movie.
In a world recovering from a zombie apocalypse, Maggie Vogel (Abigail Breslin) has been bitten and goes to the city to die alone. Her father, Wade (Arnold Schwarzenegger), retrieves her from the hospital in order to spend as much remaining time with her as possible — the virus has a six-to-eight week incubation period in this film. But this is a wold riddled with zombies kept by their families too long as much as it is by the initial apocalypse, and Wade Vogel faces a choice he is never prepared to make — throw his daughter into a reportedly barbarous quarantine or kill her before she turns, an event he can’t precisely track.
Maggie’s strength is its deconstructive premise. There are plenty of zombie movies in which the enemy is a seething mass of comfortably irredeemable corpses, but in this one, they’re Wade Vogel’s next door neighbors. They’re his daughter, on an infection timeline such that he can’t be sure whether she’s more person or more ghoul at any given point.
It really does a good job of driving home the human cost of an apocalypse. “I used to babysit her,” says Maggie Vogel, turning into a zombie, about a child who already has.
Unfortunately, there’s just not enough going on to support the movie’s scant 95 minute runtime, even with multiple deeply explored subplots. There’s a fight with zombie neighbors, there’s a romantic plot with Maggie and an ex who’s also been infected (Bryce Romero), there’s tension between Wade, Maggie and Maggie’s stepmother, Caroline (Joely Richardson), but somehow it’s not enough to fill the screen.
It’s a strange sensation watching it. The movie is brief and full of conflict, but somehow feels glacial and concordant. The blame most likely rests with first-time director Henry Hobson, best known till now for his title design work. That’s a lazy place to lay the blame, but with a dynamic script and sterling performances, where else can it really lie? The script was part of 2011’s blacklist, and is John Scott 3’s only IMDB credit. With a vision in the script this off-kilter, maybe he should have directed it?
Casting Schwarzenegger, who acquits himself masterfully, was a bold choice. Really, the entire movie is a bold choice. It just doesn’t work out as well as one would hope.
Leopold Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist and journalism student at the University of North Texas. I love cheese. I’ve had a change of heart about reader input. It is now welcomed and encouraged. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook, follow it on Twitter @reelentropy, and shoot questions to reelentropy@.