This zombie movie that isn’t a zombie movie is more horrifying than most zombie movies. Got that?
Different people define horror, or more simply what makes something scary, differently.
For some, horror films require gore – lots and lots of blood, body parts, and extreme acts of violence being inflicted on helpless characters.
Other people favor the supernatural: ghosts, zombies, vampires, werewolves, or any number of unnatural creations who terrify us due to their being so far from human.
While I enjoy horror in all of its shapes and sizes – slasher film, tales of hauntings and possessions, vampires or zombies relentlessly hunting down human prey – the stories which resonate the most with me and unsettle me the most are the ones that are THIS close to being as real as a fictional horror story can get. In that respect, end-of-the-world scenarios and stories in which a virus threatens to eradicate humanity have a far better chance of lingering with me for days, because we all know these are plausible theories on how the human race will meet its end.
Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Road (and the fantastic film that followed) may not be classified as horror, but as far as stories go, it is easily the most terrifying modern work that I have ever read. It’s bleak, it’s brutal, and it’s terrifying because it’s 100% possible.
Henry Hobson’s film Maggie shares some similarities with the film version of The Road, and while it does not reach the same heights of greatness, it tells a story that is both inspiring and chilling. If you’re smart, you’ll stop reading and go watch it, ASAP, but if you need a little more convincing, read on!
The Quickest Plot Synopsis You’ve Ever Read
Wade Vogel (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is determined to spend whatever time he has left with his daughter, Maggie (Abigail Breslin), who has been infected with the Necroambulist virus that turns its victims into zombies.
Short enough for ya? I mean, either you’re interested or not – it’s pretty straight-forward.
Why You Should See It
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Most of us probably saw the trailers for Maggie and became interested for the wrong reason – namely, our disbelief that Schwarzenegger had been cast in the male lead in a slow-burn, serious drama.
“Can The Terminator really pull this off?” many people wondered, forgetting that the man known as one of the all-time great action heroes has played roles that require a touch more range. Granted, Kindergarten Cop, Twins and Junior were not weighty dramas along the lines of Maggie, but still: I think people were a little more skeptical of Ahnuld than they needed to be.
So let’s get this out of the way: Arnold is good in this movie. Very good, in fact. His depiction of Wade as a father who is determined to allow his dying daughter live out her final days on her terms, not the government’s, is powerful. As a father of three, including one young girl whom I would do anything to protect, Arnold’s performance really resonated with me and filled me with dread at the thought of what he might have to do. I’m not going to go over-board – as good as Schwarzenegger is, Abigail Breslin absolutely steals the movie, no surprise there – but if you come into this movie looking to shred Arnold, you’re going to be disappointed, and hopefully pleasantly surprised.
Honestly, all of the performances are spectacular, which is kind of necessary for such a film. The film is clearly an allegory, and everyone does their part to keep the events believable. Characters who could have become “villains” simply comes across as human beings struggling to keep the situation from spiraling out of control. Whether it be a father trying to turn his own infected son into the authorities to be quarantined, a sheriff who insists that Wade do the same with Maggie, or Maggie’s step-mother trying desperately to see Maggie as anything other than a monster, every character contributes to the plot in a meaningful way, which is kind of a miracle of modern film-making if you ask me.
The fact that the infected are turning into zombies is truly a tiny part of the story, so the dread and moments of horror derive from the unbearable build-up of tension as we watch Maggie struggle to retain her humanity as her body succumbs to the disease, as well as waiting to see whether Wade will have what it takes to put his daughter out of her misery. Obviously, the zombie angle intensifies Maggie’s condition, as she is not only fighting off death but becoming a threat to everyone around her, as well:
While the story is not as oppressive and bleak as The Road, it never gives you any reason to hope that things are going to end well. To me, this was more terrifying than watching a super-human killer hack and slash his way through a collection of teenagers can ever hope to be. The film might be too much of an action-less, slow-burn for certain horror fans, but I found myself dreading the conclusion of this film, making it a psychological horror film of the best kind.
In addition to this being Hobson’s directorial debut, it is also the first feature-length script brought to life by screenwriter John Scott III. The greatest compliment I can give these two guys is that this film in no way, shape or form resembles a freshman outing. The film’s ending is sure to appeal to some and drive others insane, but I’ll say this: it certainly isn’t a cop-out or something that came out of left field and totally changed the tone of the story. All in all, this was a smart, confident effort by everyone involved, and is one of the biggest surprises to join my Blu-ray collection in the past year.