Posted by Michael Parsons on May 7, 2015 in / No Comments


In the limited realm of PG-13 zombie fare, “Maggie” focuses entirely on something that films like the comical “Warm Bodies” and the action-blockbuster “World War Z” leave out: that long, nasty transformation from being human to being undead.

This otherwise dramatic indie flick from first-time director Henry Hobson (heretofore credited mostly for designing credits), which looks to be a metaphor for the awkwardness of adolescence, among other things, has little else to offer premise-wise, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing. “Maggie” knows exactly what it is — the story of a father spending every last moment he can with his recently infected daughter — and at the very least, that’s something a little more meaningful than another allegory for mass consumerism.

-d26e87461ae3af0dThe movie also knows what it isn’t, which makes the casting of Arnold Schwarzenegger as the bereaved father of Abigail Breslin’s unfortunate title character pretty intriguing, because Hobson’s artsy slow-burn is the very antithesis of a Schwarzenegger flick, light on action and so heavy on atmosphere that it oftentimes feels stagnant.

This one requires some acting chops, and let’s face it, they’re not exactly drawing from the Oscar pool here. But Arnold pulls it off (and without kicking anybody’s ass at that), though the film is so solemn that he could probably have gotten away with sitting pensively for its duration.

This particular incarnation of walking dead, of whom we see very few during the film, are the product of something called the necroambulist virus, the effects of which we become quite familiar with over an hour-and-a-half of what feels a bit like “Pet Sematary” in reverse.

But ultimately, the horror of “Maggie” is more akin to the realities of an aggressive cancer than that of flesh-eating monsters, as Schwarzenegger’s Wade, a farmer out in the Midwest, is allowed to bring his teenage daughter home to live out her last six weeks amongst the family, which includes her stepmom Caroline (Joely Richardson) and two young step-siblings, and she even gets a night out with her undead-to-be boyfriend (Bryce Romero). Understandably, Caroline is concerned about the contagion, as are the local police, who come to see Wade after he’s forced to “kill” two of the neighbor’s undead kids.

Later, after an accident leaves her with one less finger, the doctor sends Maggie on her way (“You have a strong heartbeat – that’s a good sign”, he says), as the inevitable day draws nearer. How the authorities are keeping the zombie apocalypse under control while releasing the newly infected into the custody of their families is one of the film’s many unanswered questions.

But focus on the father-daughter relationship, and you’re bound to get teary-eyed at least once (as does Schwarzenegger, convincing enough in one of Hobson’s many close-ups). “Maggie” isn’t half bad as a kind of refined take on the whole genre, mining the zombie thing for at least a couple or original ideas, though Hobson and screenwriter John Scott III eschew most of what your typical horror fan will probably be craving.


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Michael Parsons

Father. Realtor®. Movie nut. After pestering my parents for their commentary on “Star Wars” when I was four years old, my mind went into a creative frenzy. I’d imagined something entirely different than the actual film, which I didn’t end up seeing until its 1979 re-release at the Uptown Theater in Washington, DC. This was my formal introduction to the cinema.

During that long wait, which felt like an eternity to a child, my mind was being molded by more corrosive stuff like “Trilogy of Terror” and “Rosemary’s Baby”, most of which I’d conned various babysitters into letting me watch on television ( I convinced one poor lady that “Jaws” was actually “Moby Dick”).

The folks were pretty strict in that regard, so the less appropriate it was for a kid to watch, the more I was fascinated by it. Horror staples like “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th”, as well as lesser-known low-budget fare like “Madman”, “Sleepaway Camp” and “Pieces” all ended up sneaking their way into the VHS on a regular basis.

Since then, I’ve developed an obsession with the entire film industry. Even though I watch and review a wide breadth of films these days, my appreciation for the campy, poorly lit micro-budgeters still lends itself to my evolving perspective on movies just as much as the summer blockbusters and Oscar contenders. As I recall my trips to the movie theater, I realize that this stuff is about much more than just a fleeting piece of entertainment.

A couple years ago, I was finally given the opportunity to lend my opinion on films to a publication, The Rogers Revue, with a subsequent run at Reel Film News. It's been both a privilege and a gateway to what we’re doing now. Most of my experience has come from interviewing independent filmmakers, who consistently promote innovation. The filmmaking process is grueling and relatively unforgiving.

Fellow film enthusiast Eddie Pasa and I have created DC Filmdom as a medium for film reviews, discussion, and (inevitably) some debate. And so, the creative frenzy continues.

(Michael is a member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association).

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