Maggie isn’t a zombie movie so much as an elegy about terminally ill children. Who will turn into zombies. It takes place in the rural malaise following an averted zombie apocalypse. Arnold Scharzeneggar has brought home his infected daughter and now he has only to wait until she turns. Will he take her to a quarantine center? Will he put her out of her misery himself? Will his accent be explained? These are the questions the viewer must ponder.
The script calls for quiet grieving. Schwarzenegger is clearly out of his depth. But so too is the haggard farmer he affects. What parent is prepared to watch his child wither and die? What could have been the weakest part of the movie — an action star trying his hand at quiet emoting — kind of works. Kind of.
But then there’s the rest of the movie. First time director Henry Hobson has a nice eye for prosaic detail and dying light (the movie could have been called Twilight of the Living Dead and not just for its tween lead and tween romantic subplot (it could also have been called Foxcatcher, although you have to see the movie to understand that one)). But Hobson takes too long going nowhere in particular. The slow burn fizzles out and trails off. He furthermore displays a singular ability to undercut every scene by serving it with either rolling thunder underneath or syrupy music drizzled on top.
The supporting cast has the kind eyes and severe faces you’d expect in a rural malaise. And then there’s poor sporting Abigail Breslyn, who made her mark in movies by being humiliated in Little Miss Sunshine. Since then, she has been run down by zombies in Zombieland, thrown into a trunk and rudely beaten in The Call, and trapped in a ghost jar in Haunters. At this rate, I’d lay good odds that she’ll be one of the first to go in this fall’s Scream Queens, a Fox TV series from the creators of American Horror Story in which one major cast member is killed every episode. She’s left to do the heavy lifting in Maggie, despairing as the zombie make-up on her baby round face gets thicker and the contact lenses in her wide eyes get more opaque. If Maggie had trusted her more than its stunt Teutonic casting and the artsy indulgence of its freshman director, it might have shown more signs of life.