As a microcosmic glimpse at yet another mid-apocalyptic zombie scenario, Maggie shines the spotlight on the titular ill-fated daughter (Abigail Breslin) of the brooding and brutish Wade (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Tasked with caring for her in the final days leading up to mandatory quarantine, Wade struggles to cope and cherish their fast-fading remaining time together in light of Maggie’s intermittently rebellious behavior. Somber unpredictability ensues as survival among the already undead and placating wary housemates factors into an increasingly dire situation for the father-daughter duo.
I find a lot to appreciate within this particular niche of stilted genre filmmaking. In the vein of Jim Mickle and Nick Damici’s Stake Land and We Are What We Are, Maggie imbues itself with an affecting lyricism uncharacteristic of what contemporary horror is glaringly oversaturated with. A non-oppressively somber color palette reigns as Schwarzenegger’s physique belies his admirably restrained demeanor, said aesthetic competently conveying the purposeful bleakness of the scenario presented. It’s a film steeped in both emotionality and individuality, of which Maggie lets coexist to prioritize relatable humanism over run-and-gun gore-spattering.
While laudable enough based on approach, the film becomes a victim of its own design as key events boil down to just when and where Maggie will make her inevitable transition. The inclusion of supporting characters helps to flesh out the rural nook Hobson presents us with, yet the decidedly zombie-light slow burn fails to consistently captivate, causing the proceedings to palpably drag as innumerable bouts of misery trump sparse emotional highs. An out-and-out slog it isn’t if a bit too linear in the chronicling of Maggie’s tiresome final days.
In failing to fully capitalize on Schwarzenegger’s notable turn and subverting our expectations a la rote subjectivity, Maggie is worth a watch if dour hopelessness in the face of tragedy is your cup of tea. Highly reminiscent of Mickle and Damici’s aforementioned panache in elevating genre elements with a lyrical flair, using either one of the films I referenced wouldn’t be a detriment to deciding if this one’s in your wheelhouse. It’s assuredly affecting given the competently realized familial dynamic, it’s just a shame that sheer chemistry and a relentlessly downtrodden mean steak can’t generate long-lasting appeal.