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Summary / Analysis
Times of India
A virus epidemic gradually transforms those who are infected into cannibalistic zombies. The best way to deal with the tainted is to place them in quarantine during the end stage, when the patients are a danger to everyone. A young girl is infected but nonetheless, her faithful father will not abandon her.
: What's the first thing you'd think about when the words 'zombie movie' and Arnold Schwarzenegger' are put together? Arnie using a Gatling cannon to mow down the undead by the truckload? A body count rivaling the number of cast and crew in the film? Nope and nope. Instead, Hobson holds back on the blood and gore and goes for something more nuanced, underpinned by an atmospheric musical score (David Wingo's compositions, sounding reminiscent of film score composer Cliff Martinez' work). And Arnold fires only one shotgun shell in the film!
Wade Vogel (Arnie, suitably weather-worn), his second wife Caroline (Richardson) and Maggie (Breslin) live on a farm in the Midwest. He gets the bad news one day that his daughter was infected with the 'necroambulist virus' and now has her days numbered. Eventually, she will be placed in quarantine - essentially left to 'turn' (completely lose one's humanity) and either die or be eaten alive by other patients who have also 'turned'. In both instances, a horrible end awaits Maggie, and her dad won't see her suffering that. Maggie knows her life has permanently changed but she will doggedly hold on to her 'real' self.
Lukas Ettlin's (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, Middle Men) cinematography is effective but at times, things can veer towards being a bit too gloomy. The film straddles a sort of middle ground between scary and family drama and it takes a look at the other side of a zombie film - the human side sans violence. Refreshingly, jump scares are diligently avoided too. Breslin's performance is both intense as well as moving. But most surprisingly, Maggie sees a rather interesting change of pace for Arnold Schwarzenegger, who pulls off playing a caring, sensitive character pretty well indeed.
For Schwarzenegger, the unimaginable choice Wade faces is profoundly soul-wrecking: Maggie is not just his first child and oldest daughter, she is the only child he had with his late, first wife. As Maggie deteriorates and Wade steadfastly remains at her side, he soon realizes the only way he can truly protect his precious child is to end her misery – but how can he kill his own daughter?
Based on an original screenplay by first-time screenwriter John Scott 3, which made the industry’s 2011 Blacklist for best unproduced screenplays, the film marks the feature film directorial debut of renowned graphic designer, commercial and title sequence director, Henry Hobson, as well as the first time Schwarzenegger has starred in or produced a low-budget, independent film.
Chloë Grace Moretz was originally supposed to star in the film.
This is the second time Abigail Breslin has acted in a zombie film and the first time Arnold Schwarzenegger is in a zombie film.
In his earlier film Total Recall, Arnold had also played a character named Wade.
Henry Hobson is the designer and director for the title sequence of The Last of Us, which is a survival horror video game. He is also the designer and director for Maggie.
Though the film was going to have its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival 2014, it was withdrawn at the request of Lionsgate.
Like in the movie Maggie, Arnold Schwarzenneger also played the same character in the movie Total Recall.
Two continuity errors are somewhat visible. In one scene after Maggie cuts off her left index finger, she appears to be ascending a staircase with her finger intact. Also, as her infection progresses, there is some inconsistency in how cloudy her eyes look.
Wade gets a message from his daughter one day telling him that she's sorry she had to put him through hurt because she has now been infected by the virus. He drives to the hospital and is told about the various stages by the doctor, who is a friend. He is told that Maggie will get sicker, will lose her appetite and then as the disease progresses, regain her appetite but for flesh and meat. This will be the last stage before she loses her humanity and becomes a total zombie and will attack any human or animal for meat. During this terminal stage, he is told that he can either turn in her daughter or do the inevitable himself. There is however, no cure. Either which way, it is a death sentence for Maggie that will slowly play out.
When driving back, after taking Maggie home from the hospital, he comforts her, knowing that she is scared and needs comfort more than anything. Back at the farm, Maggie has a chat with her brother Bobby (Flowers). They tell each other that they missed each other. Bobby however, has to leave as he risks being infected by her at a later stage. Back in the house, Caroline isn't too comfortable with Maggie's presents but soon, her love for Maggie overcomes her fears. Maggie spends quality time with her dad. They bond over stories of her mom - Wade's first wife - and reflect on those days. Some of her friends also take her out for an overnight picnic. One of her friends, Candace, (Taylor Murphy) tells Maggie that a boy named Trent (Bryce Romero) who is also infected but who always liked her, will also be there. They kiss that night.
One day when Caroline is slicing tomatoes in the kitchen, Maggie, who is on the swing outside falls and hurts her thumb, on the same arm that has the bite that infected her. Caroline brings her in and calls the ambulance but while she is on the phone, Maggie slices her infected finger off. It shows how her degree of self-loathing has increased and how desperate she is to get rid of her infected body parts, as though they weren't part of her. Wade takes her to Dr. Vern Kaplan (Jodie Moore), who examines her. Later, he tells Wade that her infection is progressing fast. In quarantine, he tells Wade that she will be in a hellish situation. The lethal injection that they administer, should he agree to euthanize her, will hurt her tremendously all over till the very end. He later suggests that whatever the case, Wade should "make it quick", indicating he use the shotgun on her. In the woods, Maggie comes across two zombies - also a father and daughter - when they approach Maggie, Wade saves her and kills the father and daughter zombie with an axe. Later, he visits their old home. The girl's father had locked himself in the room with his daughter, where they both got infected together rather than give her up to quarantine. Wade is moved when he realizes the parallel to his own situation. As Maggie's condition worsens, Carloline leaves the home temporarily, for her safety. Trent too is taken away by the cops and he is terrified.
Wade and Maggie spend some of their final moments together. He takes her to a flower bed that her mom had planted. They share jokes. One night, Maggie calls up one of her friends and during the conversation she has a fit and becomes aggressive. Her dad controls her and asks her to come to her senses. Maggie, in whatever part of her brain is human still, knows that she will have to end it herself. Just the previous day, she had attacked and killed a trapped fox and then eaten part of it. Wade later goes to the animal and puts it out of its misery.
Close to dawn, in what is probably one of the most chilling scenes in the movie, she walks down the stairs from her bedroom, across the hallway and to her father, who is asleep in his armchair. She stares at him for a long time, breathing in a feral way. The impression is that she will attack him. But instead, she kisses him goodbye and in the early morning, jumps off the roof of her house, killing herself. We then see images of her mother holding her hand, leading her away into the afterlife.