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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

May 14, 2015

Maggie Review: A Surprising Dramatic Take On Zombie Movies

AT FIRST, we thought “Maggie” is just another zombie sci-fi horror flick, of which we have had enough after “28 Days Later”, “World War Z”, “Walking Dead”, etc. It’s Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first indie flick and he must have believed in the project so much that he even agreed to produce it himself. It’s actually more of a character-driven drama about a farmer, Wade Vogel (Arnold), who wants to protect his daughter, Maggie (Abigail Breslin, who starred in “Zombieland”), the victim of a virus sweeping the county that has infected her. The infection is very slow in taking place, but it will no doubt eventually turn her into a zombie (a word which is never uttered in the movie.)

The story starts with Arnold getting a call from his daughter (Maggie is from his first marriage and he has a new family) and he searches for her amidst a chaotic landscape, like a hospital populated by humans in various stages of decay. Most victims are taken to death camps where mercy killing is performed on them. But Wade, upon finding Maggie, takes his daughter to his farm so he can care for her personally. There, she meets her younger step siblings Bobby and Molly (Aiden and Carsen Flowers).

Their mom is the very spiritual Caroline (Joely Richardson), who sympathizes with Maggie but is naturally more concerned that her own kids might get contaminated with the virus. Local Sheriff Ray (Doouglas Griffin) checks on Maggie and his daughter Allie (Raeden Greer) talks to Maggie to persuade her to join a support group that includes Trent (Bryce Romero). Trent himself is infected and his dad, also a cop, warns them what will happen when a victim turns into the flesh-eating undead.

Wade is informed that when that crucial time comes, he has three options on what to do and the hardest choice is actually the kindest of all. Since this is primarily a drama, the acting is very vital to the credibility of the whole thing and in all fairness to Arnold, he gives a muted but palpably touching portrayal here as the conflicted father who won’t give up on her daughter even if he knew there’s no more hope. It imparts the feeling that with Maggie going, he also loses his final connection with his late first wife.

Breslin similarly gives a quiet but effective performance, avoiding hysterics as her situation gets worse. She’s so moving in that she scene where she learns that a former boyfriend is now also infected. Joely Richardson also stands out as the caring stepmom who also wants to protect her own kids. She has two scenes with Breslin that are really splendid.

The movie is the directorial debut of Henry Hobson, a former movie title sequence designer. He takes his time in telling the story for viewers to fully savor the character interactions that aim to tug at one’s heartstrings, then he comes up with an astounding ending that is beyond our expectations to make it a totally different take on zombie flicks.