Rated PG-13 | Time: 1:35
By this point in the virus’s decades-long mutation, we’ve seen pretty much everything zombies have to throw at us. They won’t die, even as their corpses rot and turn green, and they’re always on the (usually slow) hunt for brains and human flesh.
Which is why “Maggie” is so unexpected. This is a walking dead drama laden with doom, a young woman’s horrific and depressed death spiral in which she knows death is the least of her horrors.
And most surprising of all is the tender, sad companion and caretaker as she dies — her quiet, compassionate and mournful father, played with great sensitivity by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
As you let that last sentence sink in, here are the basics. Maggie’s been exposed to what the news calls “the necro-ambulist” virus. Because we can’t call them “The Walking Dead” here.
Society is functioning, hospitals aren’t overwhelmed, government is packing the infected off to quarantine camps where they wait for “the turn.” It’s not as if they’re being treated or cured. They just wait for the end.
Wade is a Midwestern farmer who has overseen the burning of crops that newscasts suggest were the cause of the infection (an anti-genetically modified organism/food slap?). The only time he picks up a gun is when he has to dispatch the neighbors, including a child, who have “turned” and hidden from the authorities.
And then Maggie (Abigail Breslin) comes home. She knows what’s happening to her, cannot stop picking at the skin that is going bad and whacks her own finger off as a desperate, impulsive effort to stop the disease.
“What good’s a finger if your arm is falling off?”
Breslin is as doom-laden as any zombie heroine of recent vintage, and quite good at it. Schwarzenegger, as Wade, isn’t a man of action here. He mostly reacts — on the edge of tears, much of the time — to the warnings and counsel of his stoic second wife (Joely Richardson), local sheriff and sympathetic doctor.
“Think about what you had to do today, and what you might have to do in the future. What happens when she gets close?”
Titles (opening credits) designer-turned-director Henry Hobson filmed “Maggie” in the muted browns and grays of fall, a world still functioning, but in mourning for the winter to come. The effects are good, better than what TV serves up weekly.
But the over familiarity and fatigue of this corner of apocalyptic cinema wears on “Maggie.” We know the awful choices she and her dad face as well as they do. Almost 50 years of zombie movies and TV shows, including a recent explosion of films in this genre, have beaten the living dead to death.
Sad and forlorn, as “Maggie” is, there are no surprises left in Zombieland.
(At Cinetopia, Studio 30.)
| Roger Moore
Tribune News Service