Zombie drama takes it slow
From battling Terminators in last week’s big release, Arnold Schwarzenegger now turns his hand to tackling zombies – but not in the way you’d expect.
The Austrian Oak stars as Wade Vogel, the father of a teenager, Maggie (Abigail Breslin), who becomes infected during the outbreak of a disease that slowly turns people into cannibalistic flesh eaters.
To call debut director Henry Hobson’s sort-of-horror a slowburn would be an understatement – don’t go in expecting Walking Dead-style hordes of zombies and explosive action.
Instead, John Scott’s first ever script focuses on a parent going through the heartbreaking process of losing a child to illness and intimate drama is the order of the day.
From the understated opening credits onwards, Hobson makes it clear this is the smallest of small-scale apocalypses. Bar the odd radio update and burning building in the distance, you’d struggle to realise the end could be nigh; witness doctors’ surgeries still in operation and the police force maintaining their authority.
The muted, desaturated colours make for a clever visual metaphor of the life draining out of Maggie as the illness – referred to as The Turn – progresses through her body.
Breslin is brilliant as the stricken teen preparing for inevitable death. From her reluctance to meet up with her best friend to the terrifying moment the smell of meat enters her nostrils, we are with Maggie all the way to the end.
No amount of sunglasses and eye drops can hide her physical transformation and it’s easy to understand stepmother Caroline’s ( Joely Richardson) reluctance to share a house with her.
Schwarzenegger in a serious role is rarer than a good gag in a post-2003 Adam Sandler movie but he does fine as the defensive dad.
With hair sticking up and a scruffy beard, Arnie looks as close to being an “everyman” as possible, and Hobson and Scott gift him some nice little tender moments.
It’s strange, though, to see him scrambling to fend off zombies with hand-to-hand combat and a tiny axe; you keep waiting for him to whip out a machine gun and start laying waste to the flesh-eaters while delivering deadpan quips.
But the zombies aren’t really the bad guys here; it’s the panicking cops and supposed sanctuary of “quarantine” (which sounds more like a concentration camp) that fills Wade and Maggie with dread.
Inevitably, given the subject matter, it’s a tough, depressing watch and the final scene a little too mawkish.
Like a more serious version of Warm Bodies and Life After Beth, Maggie shuffles along at an old school zombie’s pace in a more characterdriven tale of the undead that won’t thrill the masses, but shows Schwarzenegger is a long way from finished.
Shocker Arnold Schwarzenegger (Wade Vogel) and Abigail Breslin (Maggie Vogel) star in horror-drama Maggie