Abigail Breslin and Arnold Schwarzenegger star in this dramatic family portrait of a terminally ill girl -- turning into a zombie.
Wade is a farmer on the outskirts of Kansas City in desperate search of his eldest daughter Maggie, who has gone missing for over two weeks and has only left one cryptic message instructing him to not try and save her from the infection that has wiped out so many. “I promised your mother that I would protect you,” he explains the night she is brought home to reunite with her family. Amidst burning crops and radio transmits of the virus’ progression across the nation, Maggie’s condition becomes only an aside to the new status of humanity. We see others in the community affected not only by the new virus but by new governing rules to place those infected in quarantine, including her father’s neighbor Bonnie, who kept her infected husband and child well after they turned. In a tense scene between Bonnie and Wade, she warns him that soon they’ll be coming for Maggie, and what will he be prepared to do to fulfill his promise?
In all of its 95 minutes, Maggie had me hanging on to each character's words. Like any decent indie film or zombie flick, there are pieces of the big picture you've got to put together yourself. What I saw with this movie was Breslin's portrayal of a young woman who knows she is going to die and desires some control over when and how it will all come to an end. With the support of her father, she had the strength to grasp onto her humanity until it was forcibly taken from her by the incurable virus. [I absolutely have to mention that the timing in which I watched this film uncannily parallels California's passing of its own Death with Dignity law.] From the moment that Wade embraces his daughter for the first time since she was bitten, to the bittersweet ending, Maggie takes on a somber tone that immerses you in a world where flesh-eating zombies are not the threat; the loss of a loved one is.
Fans of action-driven and bloody zombie movies might find Maggie a bit slow for their tastes, but I would still recommend it as a break from the comfortable formulas of quick scares and zombies lurking behind you. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good scare and delightfully gory makeup, but this one really tugged at my heartstrings. It doesn’t outstay its welcome, doesn’t pull any cheap gags alluding to a sequel, and [maybe unfortunately] doesn’t contain any zombie puns from Schwarzenegger.
I did deliberate on how many stars to give Maggie before asking myself what went amiss in this horror movie. I couldn’t come up with anything. I feel like it stayed true to the zombie genre, it brought new perspective with a directing style I’ve seen only unique to indie dramas, Breslin (whom I adored in Little Miss Sunshine) and Schwarzenegger have an endearing chemistry onscreen, and I didn’t blink once during the final, intense ten minutes of this film.