MAGGIE (2015): Horror-Drama Hybrid

Apparently, you CAN teach an old dog new tricks. What a relief! This old dog enjoyed watching Arnold Schwarzenegger do a dramatic turn, with no cyborg superpowers or hammy throwaway lines, in MAGGIE (2015). The Governator and Abigail Breslin create a believable father-daughter relationship out of a screenplay (by John Scott 3) that plays straight into the zombie fatigue that has recently infected moviegoers. Nevertheless, it’s not enough to save director Henry Hobson‘s horror-drama hybrid film, which suffers from a serious case of “the borings.”

Theatrical Poster for MAGGIE - image source: IMDb
Theatrical Poster for MAGGIE – image source: IMDb

The story centers on Wade Vogel (Schwarzenegger), a farmer whose daughter Maggie (Breslin) runs off to the big city, where she is caught in the outbreak of an apocalyptic virus that turns people into zombies. She gets bitten by a zombie and then scooped up in the nightly military dragnet that enforces a state-of-emergency curfew.

Wade finds her in the infectious diseases ward of a city hospital and brings her home. Before he leaves, a physician warns that Wade will have to turn her in to “Quarantine” (or kill her himself) when she starts turning into a full-blown zombie (about “eight weeks in” from the date of infection). Determined to care for his daughter himself, Wade watches her deteriorate at home while fending off neighbors who have become zombies themselves.

Maggie knows what is going to happen to her and struggles with impulses to run or to kill herself. She witnesses her boyfriend being carted off to Quarantine by the police and vows never to go there herself. Both father and daughter do not want to face the inevitable, but the unavoidable “change” finally occurs. What will Wade and Maggie do?

Although it sounds like a story we’ve heard before, there are some nice touches. For instance, although the ending is not unexpected, it is at least a bit of a twist on the expected. Another example is the name of the zombifying infectious agent, the “Necroambulist virus.” The term is a Latinate neologism that basically translates as “dead walker.” This references THE WALKING DEAD directly, with indirect echoes of DEAD MAN WALKING.

Unfortunately, the film itself suffers from an epidemic of the “Somnambulist virus.” It is full of rehashed zombie-movie tropes. Although their execution is good — especially the special effects (the SFX makeup and prosthetics, in particular) — there is also nothing new to see for horror fans. Moreover, the cast does not have much to work with and turns in average performances as a result (with the exceptions of Schwarzenegger and Breslin).

The silver lining here is that Schwarzenegger has revealed that he has potential for a comeback as a dramatic leading man. Who knows, maybe Ahhhnold can do a romantic drama? How about a remake of OUT OF AFRICA or THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY? Starring opposite Angelina Jolie? Instant blockbuster, for sure! Seriously, though, he did impress in this role, which really does make me wonder what he might be able to do in future films. I gave this one 4 out of 10 stars on IMDb.