Making its original premier at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival, Maggie is a startling movie, one that will leave many hardcore zombie-apocalypse fans dissatisfied with respect to the usual gore and action such movies bring about. However, those who stick with this movie will be astonished by the movie’s core theme, which is very much present in many zombie movies but has seldom been fully explored. Another surprise is the appearance of the mighty Arnold Schwarzenegger, who perhaps for the first time shows that he has fully developed acting chops and is more than capable of playing a solid but vulnerable man.
The genius behind the screenplay by John Scott 3 is not in its innovation, as this story has been hinted at in zombie flicks as far back as Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, but rather in expanding a horror movie into an emotional drama without losing the inherent horror that the zombie genre does so well.
The story is straightforward. Maggie Vogel (Abigail Brelin) runs away from home because she has been bitten and infected by what is called the “Necroambulist” virus (a coy play on words that means “dead walker”). Caught by the military and taken to hospital, Maggie is to be sent to quarantine, which is basically a death sentence. However, Dr. Vern Kaplan (Jodie Moore) intervenes, calling Maggie’s father Wade (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to take her home, as there is time before she transforms into one of the walking dead.
The bulk of the movie centers on the relationship between Wade and his daughter. It turns out that Maggie is his daughter from Wade’s first marriage, as he is a widow who has since married Caroline (Joely Richardson) and had two children Bobby and Molly (played by real-life siblings Aiden and Carsen Flowers). The family must cope with the ever-transforming Maggie, who daily succumbs more and more to the feral nature of the virus. Eventually, only Wade stands by Maggie’s side, but even he knows that the authorities must eventually come for Maggie, who herself witnesses such an invasion by the police to her friend’s house. Wade also witnesses the horror of transformation, as his neighbor is bitten by his child and the mom elects to lock both of them up in their farmhouse. Sadly, the two escape, wandering into one of Wade’s farm fields, where he takes both of them down.
The movie’s final reel has Wade struggling whether to kill Maggie or also lock her up. In a sly plot turn, it is Maggie’s very humanity—a sense of self-sacrifice—that relieves Wade of his responsibility. The movie’s ending strikes hard at both the gut and the heart.
Maggie brings down the zombie genre to a visceral, painful, and emotional level. Roger’s death in Dawn of the Dead is the seed from which this movie grows. Director Henry Hobson crafts a stellar film, one that provides some facets of horror, with Schwarzenegger taking down some zombies at the beginning of the film. However, Schwarzenegger is not an action hero here—he is an old and tired father who must deal with some horrific events.
As for Schwarzenegger’s performance, few will doubt his ability as an actor after screening this film. Schwarzenegger brings out some startling emotions, not once overacting but rather by using a more organic approach, once where his still-great bulk actually shows vulnerability and pain. Co-stars Abigail Breslin and Joely Richardson feed off Schwarzenegger’s actions, giving the film its punch and emotional prowess. The supporting cast also turns in some solid performances, making this movie feel more like an ensemble than just a soap opera.
Although a welcome entry into the zombie genre, Maggie is simply something that has to be experienced, particularly from those looking for something fresh in a crowded genre. This movie will move the jaded, and that more than anything else makes Maggie an ideal horror movie that any horror fan must watch.
The DVD of Maggie comes with a making of documentary, cast and filmmaker interviews, a deleted scene, a trailer, and filmmaker commentary.