It feels like not too long ago we got our first look at this little zombie movie called “Maggie” starring the (fading) action star Arnold Schwarzenegger. A different sort of zombie movie that looked more like a small drama than a big bombastic horror movie. Never quite seeing Arnold flex his acting chops I was very interested to see this film. Really, I think this was the main curiosity of most moviegoers seeing this movie. We’ve seen a lot of zombie movies in the past decade both on the big and small screen (with some being better than others). “Maggie” did have some very interesting moments and ideas but the movie’s pace was as slow as the zombies on screen with tedious emotion and a horrendous ending that hinders this movie dearly. There are pockets here and there of a great film and on screen but it never comes together.
As with any zombie movie we start off in a world where a deadly outbreak has broken out slowly turning the infected into walking zombies ready to feast on human flesh. In a small mid west town a young teenage girl is bitten by one of the flesh eaters. Being kept at home for six weeks with her father before taken to isolation, where her father is determined to protect her from anything that might threaten her.
This is unlike any zombie movie I’ve ever personally seen. Granted there are tons of zombie themed films that are released every year but most only have enough of a budget to buy DVD and Blu-Ray cases after, let alone a major theatrical release. Hell, even this film with a major (albeit fading) star barley got a small theatrical and a video on demand release.
This is more a drama that happens to involve a zombie outbreak than a zombie movie that happens to have some drama. Since the transformation from living to the undead takes a really long time our main characters are decaying right before our very eyes. Slowly as the traumatic transformation ensues our characters have to learn to deal with it or deal with it improperly. It’s a nice change of pace from what we’re use to seeing. The trouble is none of the characters are all that interesting.
I understand what the filmmakers were trying to go for. In “Maggie” we are suppose to believe this family is just like true to life people, the people who are your neighbors. But, the trouble is sometimes your neighbors aren’t very interesting and the same could be said for these characters. They feel distant when they should be emotionally close. I didn’t care to much about their story or what their end result was. It’s a shame too because Arnold Schwarzenegger was giving it his all and not doing a half bad job at flexing his acting skills. Yet for me personally watching the film I just couldn’t get into his performance and get involved because I just didn’t care about his character.
With this zombie movie’s surprising lack of zombies the film tries to overcompensate for its lack of thrills with an overabundance of emotional moments. Yet most of those moments feels manipulative or contrive. The movie doesn’t feel like it has any natural emotions. Instead of the audience feeling emotional natural, the filmmakers have overburden our senses with loud in your face music, slow motion and crying. It really feels like they are trying way too hard to make us cry to the point where it becomes overbearing.
The most unforgiveable thing about this movie is the ending. The ending to this film is one of the most maddening and frustrating endings I have seen in a while. I can buy that this movie doesn’t end in a big barrage of explosions and death and blood and guts. Yet, this ending gives you almost nothing at all. Just when the movie was not only starting to get tense but also poetic this just flips a switch and just ends and doesn’t give you anything to go on. No aftermath, no epilogue or anything….just ends. It’s not left ambiguous either. There is a difference between giving the audience too much at the end and giving nothing at all. I imagine the filmmakers wanted to avoid doing the generic third act finale with a shootout (or something along those lines). Yet it in doing that the screenwriters seemed to over correct themselves and go the complete opposite direction which is nothing at all. I harped on the “Tomorrowland” ending but that’s masterful compared to this the “Maggie” ending.
First time director Henry Hobson does show promise with setting the mood and the tone. Working as a designer for the masterpiece video game “The Last of Us” you can sort of feel that fingerprint all over this film. The storytelling may be uneven and the characters are stilted and sometimes the camera work is a little wonky but the world was well set up. Where will he go from here? We have yet to see but for now “Maggie” doesn’t show the most potential that you could show.