|'As an entry into the zombie subgenre, Maggie is in many ways one of the most restrained seen for some time'.|
Considering much of his post-Governator return to making movies has seen him retreading ground of varying degrees of familiarity, it's at the very least refreshing to see Arnold Schwarzenegger involved in a film such as Maggie. Midwestern farmer Wade Vogel in many ways couldn't be much more different to the typical Arnie role: quiet, measured, even emotional.
There are times where this casting directly against type works well, and seeing Schwarzenegger attempt to widen the scope of his film catalogue is admirable. There are scenes here - mostly those shared with the excellent Abigail Breslin as Wade's titular daughter, slowly succumbing to zombification - where the Austrian Oak is anything but wooden. The sixty-eight-year-old Schwarzenegger's eyes regularly tell a story far more convincingly than any other element of the veteran's performance. In other scenes, however, it's hard not to feel that Schwarzenegger is simply out of his depth. The actor's career in the past has largely eschewed dramatic fare, and his performance in Maggie at times makes a convincing argument for this having been a very sensible decision. It's not that Schwarzenegger doesn't try, but there are scenes in which his performance is so deficient in authenticity that it pulls you out of the film all together.
Away from his leading man, director Henry Hobson's debut continues to prove an uneven experience. As an entry into the zombie subgenre, Maggie is in many ways one of the most restrained seen for some time. The horror and gore are largely absent for much of the running time, with Hobson still managing to create a palpable post-apocalyptic world that is consistently authentic and occasionally beautiful in it bleakness. The cinematography seen at points throughout Maggie is striking, and the washed out colour palette that Hobson uses for much of his film works to emphasise the desolate nature of the film's narrative.
Hobson takes his time telling the remarkably simple story related through John Scott III's script, an approach pleasing at times but frustrating just as often. There are moments where the director creates palpable tension out of almost nothing, but others where you'll wish he would cut out the ponderous approach and just get on with it. The fact that Hobson allows very little humour into his film also begins to take its toll after a while, with the relentless seriousness only broken up by one or two desperately welcome moments of lightness.
It's hard to know what to make of Maggie as a whole. There are suggestions throughout that the zombie elements of the narrative are in fact metaphorical of fatal diseases such as cancer - both through the way sufferers feel and how those close to them deal with the situation - but Hobson never seems all that interested in doing a great deal with this idea that hasn't already been covered better in a more straightforward way. Equally, whilst the film's treatment of a zombie apocalypse as a device feels somewhat original on the surface, it ultimately does very little that's truly different with the tropes and conventions of a subgenre arguably more prevalent in mainstream media than it ever has been. There's enough here to make Maggie worth watching, but Hobson's end product ultimately feels too inconsistent to be considered anything more than a partial success.
Maggie is released on UK Blu-ray and DVD on Monday 23rd November 2015, and is available on digital download now.