Maggie

Director: Henry Hobson (2015)

As his daughter turns into a zombie, a father faces a terrible dilemma in this bleak gothic horror.

Fresh from the debacle of Terminator Genisys, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays against type in this thoughtful character study.

Sparse on action, low on budget and long on mood, it’s an admirable and interesting departure from Arnie’s usual flavour of explosive adventure.

It’s such a strange stitching together of component parts it could be a new round of TV’s improvisational game show Whose Line Is It Anyway?

Make a film with ‘zombies’ in the style of ‘Terence Malick’ starring ‘Schwarzenegger’. Go!

It’s a barking idea, albeit a welcome one. A provocative and almost perverse retooling of the Schwarzenegger brand.

Arnie plays Wade, tired, heavy footed farmer in a beard and lumberjack shirt. We meet him taking his daughter Maggie (Abigail Breslin) home from hospital.

Maggie is infected with the Necrombulist virus which decays the skin and changes the victim into flesh eating animal.

Wade knows Maggie will never recover from the virus which has devastated the world. Friends in the local services collude against the federal authorities to help them spend some final quality time together.

As Maggie slowly changes Wade ponders how to deal with her inevitable decline.

It’s an apocalyptic world of burning fields, missing person posters, deserted petrol stations and rubbish filled streets. Marshal law and curfews are enforced by an oppressive bureaucracy and a heavy handed military.

As the camera chases Maggie across fields, she’s backlit with the sun creating a halo. There’s an emphasis on close up head shots in shallow focus. The palette is washed out, chilly and grim.

With a doomed father/daughter relationship it has echoes of John Wayne’s The Seachers (1956). Arnie has the rigidly defined acting range of the Duke and a similarly framed and monumental presence.

It’s the flip-side of Life After Beth (2014) which was played for laughs.

Maggie is well constructed, intelligent, ambitious and achieves a scope beyond it’s budget limitations. Kudos to Arnie for using his industry clout to have it made.

But with it’s sombre, reflective tone and focus on parental guilt, broken homes and self-harm, it’ll disappoint anyone who is expecting the Terminator to turn up and save the day.

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