If there is one thing Arnie has never had any problem with during his career, it’s killing people. So his latest feature, Maggie poses quite the challenge for the former politician.
In the most serious role of his post political career to date Arnie plays a father called Hank in a post zombie apocalyptic society. Hank’s daughter- the titular Maggie has been bitten by a zombie and has a few shorts weeks until her transformation is complete and Maggie as Hank knows her is gone forever. Hank, being the good father that he is wants to make those last few weeks as bearable as possible, but is struggling to wrestle with what is going to become of his daughter and is unsure whether to put her out of her misery or send her off to quarantine to be with the other zombies. Whilst on the outside Maggie may appear to be a zombie film it is much more a movie about terminal illness that happens to involve zombies.
Directed by first time director Henry Hobson Maggie is shot like a depressing Terrence Mallick movie, never injecting any light into the darkness, making it at times an extremely difficult film to get along with. Arnie gives the best performance of his career comeback so far but the real star of the show is Abigail Breslin as Maggie- her pitch perfect performance provides the movie with the emotional gravitas it needs to carry it through some of the more monotonous sections.
Despite being a zombie film the horror in Hobson’s tale comes more from the existential dread created by Maggie’s lost youth than from the creatures themselves. One scene in particular, where Maggie realises her body is turning on her in classic body horror fashion is a particular highlight and manages to be physically and emotionally frightening at the same time.
Maggie is let down not by its performances or even by its direction but rather by the fact it never manages to be the film it feels like it could be. The concept is innovative and gives a fresh take on both the teen illness and zombie angles but it never feels like it is quite as good as it could have been, perhaps because of some serious pacing issues in the first act. The one aforementioned scene, along with a few others, notably the end scene itself show just how good this movie could have been and unfortunately at the end of the credits it just feels like a wasted opportunity, although a well made one at that.