"Maggie" is director Henry Hobson's debut film. It is a no-frills family drama enveloped in mystery and horror.
Set in the post-apocalyptic world, where the inhabitants are infected by the Necroambulist virus that turns people into zombies, this is an emotional saga of a father-daughter relationship, where Wade (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a farmer and a loving father. wants to protect his daughter Maggie (Abigail Breslin) from becoming a flesh eater.
Maggie gets infected with the disease while she is staying in the city, away from her family. Aware that this fatal disease is going to consume her, she calls her father to bid him her final goodbye.
Instead, Wade lands up in the city and after a two-week search, he finds her in the early stages of infection. He brings her back to their farmland, to nurse her but not before being admonished by the authorities that she will be quarantined, in case her symptoms become worse.
The film is fraught with tension and sorrow as the family bides their time waiting for the inevitable. Her step-siblings are sent away from home as a precaution of unwarranted events.
They watch Maggie as she gradually changes. Her pupils turn cloudy opaque, her veins and wounds darken and her sense of smell gets tuned to raw flesh.
And as Maggie's situation deteriorates, Wade is in a dilemma. He has three options before him -- let her be quarantined or give her the ineffective, painful injections that they give at the quarantine wards or make her journey quick.
What makes this film stand out from the rest of the zombie films, is the tempo of the narration and the in-depth back story it offers. Unlike the usual zombie films, this one is soft, slow and languid. The plot is simple and straightforward depicting the gradual physical and mental deterioration of the protagonists, making it emotionally effective. It is this familial drama that gives it a distinct voice.
For a change, the usual stone-faced Arnold Schwarzenegger surprises you with his casual and restrained performance. He plays the concerned father to the core. It his heart-rending to see him scared for his daughter as he fends off the local police and infected neighbours. He is believable as he emotes naturally.
So is Abigail Breslin. She gives a powerful heart-breaking performance. Your heart goes out to her when she tells her father, "You should not have got me back". Together, they portray a lovely father-daughter duo.
Joely Richardson as Maggie's loving, yet wary stepmother, who sends her children away, is exasperating and affable as well.
The two are well-supported by the rest of the cast. Among them, Aiden Flowers as Bobby, Maggie's step brother, is charismatic.
The production of the film is made up of basics. Production designer Gabor Norman has managed to create the grey ambiance of the dystopian state with precision and this is well-captured by Lucas Ettlin's camera work. His frames largely consisting of tight close-ups are effective. These draws you to the tension of the tale, upfront.
On the edit front, the film does not flow seamlessly. Some scenes end abruptly, making the transitions jerky at times.
David Wingor's sound design, which includes the eerily soft and mellifluous background score, works well in the flow of events.
Overall, "Maggie"" is a well-directed zombie film that is pleasantly engaging. It will appeal to those who are not into gore and blood curdling horror.