When World War Z left us on the island in its final scene, having taken us through the apocalypse for what seemed to be the final time, we thought the genre as a whole had been almost entirely depleted. The Walking Dead continues to trudge on into its 457th series and the odd Indie flick tries to bring something new every now and again, but it appears as though the outbreak of a flesh eating doomsday still has a trick or two up its sleeve, but perhaps not in a way you would quite have expected it to. Maggie is going to take you down to the microscopic social horrors of a zombie outbreak, and you just have to sit and watch without breaking.
If you took the time to play through the PS3’s phenomenal The Last of Us (2013), and made it to the end without giving up on humanity entirely then you will be in very comfortable climes with the release of Maggie. The Last of Us left us trying to rearrange our heartstrings back into a functioning formation, some of us only just putting them back in their proper order very recently. So be warned when we tell you that Maggie is about to plough right back into the core of your emotional rationale. Arnie always told us he’d ‘be back’ and this could be the defining moment in his acting career. How quick we are to forget this man has at the top of his CV the word ‘Actor’. He’s about to show us why it has been overlooked for so long. Prepare to have your eyes opened.
Maggie is the story of a young girl, played by the ever-improving Abigail Breslin, who, without any shadow of a doubt, steals every bit of this show. Having been bitten, in what we assume is only an early zombie outbreak, it is up to her family, and more importantly her father Wade, played incredibly well by Arnold Schwarzenegger, to help her through her end of life care, and to finally make a decision on how she will finally pass into complete zombification, or the other option…the one we all know is the right one, but also the one that nobody wants to make. This is the core of the movie, and it takes us into unchartered waters when we try to link the whole zombie genre to its message. Make no mistake about this, we are initially tricked into what we believe to be yet another reanimation of the dead, and with Arnie on board we are just waiting for him to rip his shirt off and go DEFCON 1 on those that did this to his nearest and dearest. I don’t think I’m giving too much away when I say there isn’t a rocket launcher in sight, and this is the most endearing thing about the film and its two main characters’ performances. There is no revenge. There is no oncoming apocalypse. There are no wolves at the door. There is a father who is trying to do what needs to be done to ensure his daughter is comfortable and calm throughout her ever increasingly disturbing symptoms, en route to her inevitable last breath, whilst still retaining his sanity in the role of family figurehead. You know it’s coming, but it doesn’t make it any easier when it finally does, and that’s why this movie breathes new life into a genre that was already becoming a parody of itself through endlessly increasing budgets, scripts, and silliness to create the one that beats them all; the defining zombie movie.
But surely we’ve seen this before many times over? Well, some could argue that we have, and there are plenty of examples out there already that could prove just that point:
The Walking Dead (20-Forever) continues to show us how such an outbreak can affect individuals within a group, and how that affect creates new storylines, new horrors, and new characters. Let’s face it, The Walking Dead could run forever and still remain fresh, but of recent it feels as though they are getting caught in the trap that so many have been snared in before; to deliver grand scale outbreak, and this could be its undoing. The ratings would disagree, but it will have to end at some point, and it will be interesting to see which way they take it – big explosive finish? Or intimate character deliverance? We’ll have to wait quite a long time to see how that pans out anyway.
The 28 Days (2002- 2007) movies gave us an insight into the solitude and desperation of a full-blown outbreak, but it eventually gave way to gore and action, albeit in a good way and we should rightfully declare them as the pioneers of the new zombie genre. World War Z (2013) gave us an eye watering global take on the speed at which an outbreak could tear humanity apart, but again it was just too big to leave us with any real emotional connection with its characters. One that came close was Zombieland (2009). Even through the gore, the fun, and the humour we still took the characters to heart and hoped they would make it, but that was what made this different to Maggie.
There is little hope left in Maggie’s remote town, made all the more bleak in its cinematography of wonderfully shot hues of grey and blue. The movie is dreary yet beautiful on the eye, and it accompanies the drama perfectly. So we can almost certainly say, no. We haven’t seen this all before in the zombie genre, and this is definitely something new and worth watching. Maggie is intimate. Maggie is heart wrenching. Maggie is beautiful. But Maggie is dying, and there is nothing we can do to prevent that from happening. But maybe we have seen this before after all…
The nearest Maggie comes to any movie we have already seen doesn’t have a single flesh-eater in sight, but it takes us down the very same path (excuse the pun). The Road (2009) is Maggie without the outbreak. Maggie is The Road without the journey. But they are one and the same in that they both question our ability to make decisions that we don’t ever want to face, and they leave us with the same haunting memory. Could you do it if you had to? That is the ultimate question being asked, and it’s not one that leaves you alone easily. We’d highly recommend you taking the journey through to the question by yourself, as this is something you won’t have seen coming. We certainly didn’t…