Zom­bie drama takes it slow

Rutherglen Reformer - - The Ticket - Mag­gie

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

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