Maggie

MG1

When Wade Vogel’s daughter Maggie is bitten by a zombie, she’s given six to eight weeks before she herself will become a zombie as well and it’s up to Wade to decide his daughter’s fate before her time runs out.

I never had a choice about becoming a zombie as opposed to young Maggie. I was attacked by the undead, had a couple bites taken out of me, died, and then came back, same with most of the zombies I know. I say most because there is the odd human who manages to run away after receiving a bite, turning a short while later. Even then I wouldn’t say that’s much of a choice, more a reaction to something that already occurred, so I guess even Maggie didn’t get a choice, she just had more time to think about her final fate. A choice would be when a zombie asks if you would like to be bitten, which does happen. Zombies will often ask loved ones still among the living if they would like to become a zombie and thereby defy mortality, but the offer isn’t accepted very often. People seem to think it’s a bad thing to become a zombie. I blame the anti-zombie media for hyping up the flesh eating without talking about how great human flesh tastes. Long before I became a member of the living dead I’d asked all my friends and family to let me turn should I ever become infected with some kind of zombie type virus. I never believed the media when they showed zombies as mindless automatons, I knew there had to be more to it than that and I was right. Luckily none of my loved ones had to actually make due on their promise not to destroy my brain before I reanimated. I’m sure it’s not an easy thing to deal with, and I pitied poor Wade Vogel having to face this reality in Maggie.

Our film begins after the necroambulist virus has changed the world as we know it. The incurable virus will infect a person and slowly turn them into a flesh craving zombie over a six to ten week period depending on the person. Martial law has been declared and a curfew is in effect to keep people off the streets at night. Around the world, people are having to burn crops contaminated with the same disease that is infecting people, the hope being that destroying the old crops will kill the contamination and ensure new growth that is unaffected by the disease. Doctors, the police, and the military due their best to contain the situation, identifying those who become infected, monitoring their condition but allowing them to spend time with their loved ones, and ultimately quarantining them when it progresses too far. In this world we are introduced to one citizen in particular, Wade Vogel (Arnold Schwarzenegger). His daughter Maggie (Abigail Breslin) stayed out past curfew one night and was bitten by someone infected with the necroambulist virus. Doctors allow him to take her home, warning him that there is no cure and she will eventually become a zombie like all the rest. He is offered the option of immediately quarantining her but is unwilling to part with his daughter just yet, taking her home to spend her last weeks with himself and her stepmother, her mother having died years prior, and sending her younger siblings away for their own safety. While things seem bleak enough as they are, the worst is yet to come because slowly but surely Maggie will become a zombie just like all the others, and there’s nothing Wade can do about it. As Maggie’s condition worsens and she becomes not only a threat to Wade and his wife, but everyone who may come in contact with her as well, the only thing Wade can do is decide if he’s going to send her to quarantine, allow her to go free where she may hurt many others, or do the unthinkable, and end her life himself before she completely succumbs to the disease.

MG3{This is going to make for some very uncomfortable dinners}

I really wasn’t sure what to expect of this film. Not that it didn’t look extremely interesting, but it had one thing that I just wasn’t sure of, or one person I should say, Arnold Schwarzenegger. The last horror movie I remember him starring in was End of Days, and that movie was awful, not to mention Maggie didn’t look like his typical film. Schwarzenegger is a great action star, Conan the Barbarian, The Terminator, Predator, the list goes on and on, but Maggie wasn’t an action flick. It was a drama about a father and daughter coming to terms with an incurable disease that would eventually take the daughter’s life. Yeah, it had zombies in it, but they weren’t the main focus, that would be the relationship between Maggie and her father Wade. I just wasn’t sure Arnold could pull it off, but it turns out that stripped of his normal action tropes he actually has a very wide emotional range beyond “punch everything.” I might even go so far as to say this is the best performance of his career. He also worked very well with actress Abigail Berslin who played the titular Maggie. Berslin, who’s no stranger to zombie flicks having played Little Rock in Zombieland, did a wonderful job with the character, a young woman trying her best to deal with the fact that she only has a short while to live while slowly losing everything she is to the zombie she’s fated to become unless her life is ended early. The pair put on a powerful performance together, pulling at your heartstrings and making you feel for their plight. I found myself truly caring for them as they struggled with how to say goodbye and how early to say that goodbye.

MG2{There are some truly heartbreaking scenes between the pair}

That’s the crux of the movie, Wade deciding what to do about Maggie. With there being no cure it’s inevitable that she will turn into a zombie at the end, and when she does she’s going to attack anyone she comes into contact with, turning them as well. There is no set time frame as each person is affected differently, but the average is anywhere from six to ten weeks, and the longer a person is allowed to progress, the more dangerous they become. Wade is left with only three options, either allow her to go all the way and risk more lives, send her to quarantine, an awful place where the infected are left to die in horrid conditions before being given a very painful but lethal injection if they aren’t eaten by other infected first, or he can end it quick by putting a bullet in her head. The third option would honestly be the best option for Maggie, no one else would have to worry about being infected by a zombified Maggie and she wouldn’t have to suffer through the horrors of quarantine, but it’s also the most difficult option for Wade to choose. How could a parent end the life of a child they love more than they love themselves, regardless of whether that’s the right choice or not. What I really like about this set up is that it transcends Maggie simply being a zombie movie. You could switch out zombieism with any other terminal disease and it would still work perfectly. At its heart Maggie isn’t about zombies, it’s about a family coming to terms with the loss of a member and how hard it is to let go of them. They have the time to say goodbye, but that doesn’t make it any easier. If anything it makes it a little more difficult in some aspects, the time they have together not seeming like nearly enough. In the end they will have to make the choice to either let her suffer, cause more harm, or end it as peacefully as the disease allows, making me wonder if there isn’t a bit of commentary on “right to die,” or whether a person should be allowed to choose their own ending if there is no hope of a cure and allowing them to live will only cause more pain. Maggie ended up being a very thought provoking movie that was so much more than a zombie movie, but a look at grief, loss, and the nature of death. It was one of the best zombie movies I’ve seen, it was also a more realistically crafted world than most zombie films feature.

{You will not be judged should you shed a tear or two during the film}

The world we see in Maggie is one that seems to be very much on par with our world were it facing an epidemic of this proportion. Again, the zombie virus could be replaced with any incurable, deadly epidemic and it would still work just as well. This isn’t an over the top gore fest but a realistic look at what could happen were a disease with world ending implications to be caught before it had infected too much of the population to save humanity. People are scared, terrified even, and the uncertainty of the future causes a deep seated fear that becomes a near palpable thing. Though martial law is in effect, the people are ruled more by their fear than the authoritative government, people argue about what should reopen now that rules have been put in place to slow the virus’ spread, what’s the best way to deal with the infected, and how far personal rights go when such a dire threat is facing humanity. There are even the standard talking heads on television pushing both right and left side politics. They aren’t specifically stated to be either republican or democrat, but it’s implied. Neither side is presented as right nor wrong, in fact, they’re only presented as being fear based thoughts too heavily influenced by politics that aren’t capable of helping the situation at all. Basically what politics mean in any serious situation. There was a good interpretation of how the medical community and authorities would deal with such a virus as well. Since those infected don’t immediately turn, as long as there is someone to take care of them, doctors will allow patients to return home to their families as long as they agree to constant checkups to monitor their progress. When it gets toward the end they are forced into quarantine where they are supposed to be injected with a lethal concoction that will end their lives before they turn. The quarantine areas are so overcrowded and understaffed that conditions in these places are deplorable, the infected aren’t separated by how close they are to turning, so some will end up eating people before security can stop them. Even should they receive the injection first, it is a horribly painful thing so unpleasant that doctors recommend family shoot their loved one in the head before they make it to quarantine. If a person fails to show up for an appointment, whether that be a checkup or reporting for quarantine, police are sent to collect the infected, forcing them to come with them or killing them if necessary. It was a great look at how an epidemic of this proportion might affect the world. Anyone who remembers the responses to many disasters that have happened around the world won’t see the quarantine areas as they are presented in the film being too farfetched.

MG5{When jumping into the fire is the better option than surrendering yourself, the government has failed epically}

One thing I wasn’t sure of was if people were supposed to be undead when they turned. It’s never explicitly said to be one way or the other, and there are things that point to them being both dead and alive, and some things that are rather ambiguous. Points for the living go towards the infected seeming to have raspy breath after they’ve turned and the cocktail that will kill them by flowing through a still functioning artery system, but the cocktail is administered before they’ve fully turned so that one goes more into the ambiguous category I guess. Points for them being dead are the name of the virus, necroambulist, which translates more or less to “walking dead,” the fact that they seemed to need a headshot to put down when they attacked, and an off handed comment someone makes to them having “already moved on,” but again, none of these are definitive, so it’s still ambiguous. They certainly looked dead though, appearing to be rotted and falling apart. The makeup work in Maggie was very talented. They did an amazing job with how the zombies looked, their skin turning black and rotten until they barely even looked human. What was more impressive than how they looked when they fully turned was how well they designed the progression of the disease. When it first starts out there isn’t anything different looking than the bite area which begins to turn blackish, but changes start taking place within the first week and only start getting worse, the bite area’s discoloration growing out from the original wound, the eyes slowly going opaque, and the veins turning purple and becoming more pronounced. It was wonderfully crafted and perfect for the film in that the change seemed more sad than horrifying, garnering even more sympathy for the victims of the disease. It wasn’t until they finally turned, when there was nothing left of the person they used to be, that they became horrifying.

MG6{This is actually one of the better stages}

Maggie easily went into my top ten of the best zombie films. It isn’t a gore fest so don’t expect a ton of zombie killing to happen, there are actually very few zombies that end up needing to be put down, but it is a film that uses the idea of zombies in a very original way. Don’t take my word for it, go and see for yourself.

 

The Undead Review

 

Directed By: Henry Hobson

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger (Predator, The Terminator), Abigail Breslin (Zombieland, Little Miss Sunshine), and Joely Richardson (Vampire Academy, The Girl with the Dragon Tatto)

Written By: John Scott 3 (Parable X)

Released By: Lionsgate, Grindstone Entertainment Group, Gold Star Films, Lotus Entertainment, Silver Reel, Gold Star Films, Matt Baer Films, and Sly Predator

Release Year: 2015

Release Type: Theatrical Release

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Rotten Heads: Five Heads Out of Five

About The Undead Review

When I was alive I was an asshole and after I died remained pretty much the same, if not a little worse. You’d think becoming a member of the walking dead would mellow a person out, no more worrying about awkward small talk with people, no more having to be politically correct, and the entire world is your upright, bipedal buffet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun as hell to be a zombie, just somewhat irritating at times, especially those times you have to watch a lame movie or read a lame book. Thankfully, when I am forced to watch these films or read those books, I’ve got places like The Undead Review to bitch and moan to my heart’s content. {When he’s not devouring the living or sinking his teeth into a good film The Undead Review (Andy Taylor) spends his time writing his own stories or hunting down the paranormal. Oh, and did we mention his blind dog once saved the world?)
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