JUMPSCARECUT: Maggie (2015)

Year: 2015
Directed by: Henry Hobson
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abigail Breslin, Joely Richardson

Written by Chris Gelderd

As the world is plagued by a Necroambulist virus that turns humans into zombies, it finds its way to a small American town. A young girl, Maggie (Breslin) is attacked and infected by the virus after daring to go out after curfew and in time brought to the hospital for treatment. Her father, Wade (Schwarzenegger), tracks her down and takes her home to care for her with step-mother Caroline (Richardson).

As Maggie develops painful and disfiguring side-effects as the virus slowly takes hold of her, Wade does all he can to protect and support his daughter who struggles to comes to terms with her fate – the virus will eventually kill her as a process called “The Turn”.

With the authorities breathing down Wade’s neck to ensure he does the right thing when the time comes, Maggie tries to live a normal remainder of her life with the love of a father who stands against anyone, or anything, who will try to take away her right to survive as best she can…

As of 2013 when Schwarzenegger returned to our screens to take the lead in film once more, his offering was rather tepid in terms of critical and audience reception. With 4 films as lead under his belt in under 2 years, and an uncertain future as the Terminator in a gambled re-boot of the franchise looms, it’s safe to say that his turn in ‘Maggie’ is, as an actor, his best role yet in many a year.

With a genre, trailer and poster that understandably tease you scares, zombies, blood-lust and action, this is the second supernatural film Arnie has tackled; the first being the apocalyptic ‘End Of Days’ in 1999. However, this film turns the zombie genre on its undead head and uses it as a backdrop for what otherwise is a heartfelt drama about a father and daughter’s bond through a life-changing event. And it’s refreshing because of it.

We don’t see Arnie taking down zombies with chainsaws, shotguns or pick-up trucks trying to save his daughter and the whole world. Instead, we see Arnie defend himself with only an axe and single barrel shotgun in a total on-screen kill count of 2. The tone of this film is bleak – from the near sepia colouring to the desolate American town filled with burning crop fields, low grey clouds, and abandoned roads. It’s not signalling the end of the world, but more like a community coming to terms with a virus they can try to contain, but also trying to deal with the emotional heartache it brings to those affected. It gives zombies and their families a chance to be seen as human before the virus takes over.

There is very little zombie action, which again is refreshing. Bar a couple of wandering undead that reminds us of the lingering threat, this slow-paced story is all about young Maggie who played brilliantly by Abigail Breslin who has become the latest victim of the virus and must come to terms with the knowledge she will eventually die and probably hurt those she loves in the process. She’s a young teenage girl who just wants to succeed in life and hang out with friends but finds it impossible when her own family are scared of her and her confidence is shattered slowly by the disfiguring transformation. Breslin plays it perfectly, conveying both determination and helplessness in her situation and her slow transition from teenager to zombie is chilling.

But this film also belongs to Arnold Schwarzenegger as Wade, a husband and father who is trying to protect his family but primarily protect his daughter from herself and the threats of the outside world trying to lock her away. Schwarzenegger isn’t the greatest actor, and his back catalogue doesn’t require him to be as he was the pinnacle of action films and wooden acting that worked perfectly for his time. But now times have changed and he isn’t the acclaimed action star he once was, and so this film gives him the perfect opportunity to actually act for all his worth. No one-liners, no in-jokes, no action hero – here is just a father doing what a father would do to try and protect his child. He gives a sombre and emotional performance alongside Breslin and the two share some truly heart-breaking moments together with great chemistry from the off. There’s no clichéd rift to heal or anything like that, it’s simply a father and daughter from the start taking a journey that they know will end badly, but it’s how they come to terms with it and what they both are willing to do in order to protect each other and the family.

I found this a brave story to tell going against everything one could expect from the genre and the lead star. It is a very slow-paced film even for 90mins, and requires you to leave all expectations at the door and immerse yourself in a drama; nothing more. It’s bleak, it’s moving and not your usual Hollywood style happy ending, but it provides enough moments to make it all worthwhile if you invest in the two leads and see how their journey pans out.

Wonderfully acted, brilliantly shot and very chilling and tense in moments. This doesn’t offer anything new, but it’s down to the leads and the actual story that solidifies this as a very good film to watch, and a real gem from Arnie to show he can actually act given the right script and story away from CGI nonsense and the Hollywood blockbuster machine.

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Watch This Space: July 20 – 26

Welcome to your weekly go-to-guide – WatchThisSpace – where we give you recommendations of films to watch in the cinema, on the television and those brilliant films hiding at the back of your DVD collection.

IN THE CINEMA

Jake Gyllenhaal is a JumpCut UK favourite, but we are being completely unbiased when we say that his new film ‘Southpaw’ looks fantastic. Dark, powerful and intense, this boxing drama is sure to be a knockout (sorry).

James Franco and Jonah Hill come together again for ‘True Story’ this weekend. Another silly comedy movie right? Wrong! A real life true story of crime and deceit; no gags, no weed and no Seth Rogen. Check out our exclusive review for a better idea of what to expect.

Disney Pixar’s latest release hits cinemas this week and from the look of the reviews from those that have already seen it, ‘Inside Out’ is a real treat. The film addresses the problems facing a young girl in everyday scenarios from the viewpoint of the different emotions inside her head that are characterised into Fear, Joy, Sadness, Anger and Disgust. A story that is relatable for people of all ages, could this become one of the all-time animated greats? The early noise is very promising indeed.

Arnie returns to our screens this week in ‘Maggie’. This horror/action films is based around the onset of a zombie epidemic which Arnie’s daughter falls victim to. This doesn’t look like a classic “shoot ‘em up” Schwarzenegger film, more thought-provoking and subtle, with some definite sub-textual adolescent themes. Should be quite interesting, if Zombie films are to your liking. Check out our review for more.

ON TELEVISION

Friday 10:45 GMT: Set the alarm clock and get ready to pull a sicky because you won’t want to miss ‘The Hunt For Red October’ on More4 on Friday morning. This Cold War action thriller has a brilliant cast in Sam Neill, Sean Connery and James Earl Jones and is the film adaption of Tom Clancy’s debut novel. As far as the action genre goes, Clancy is somewhat of a powerhouse and that much is obvious if this film is anything to go by.

Friday 18:45 GMT: A 90s classic of the rom-com genre, see the late Heath Ledger in ’10 Things I Hate About You’ on Film4.

Friday 22:40 GMT: Johnny Depp stars as the notorious 1930s gangster John Dillinger in ‘Public Enemies’. See if Christian Bale can halt Dillinger’s criminal gang on ITV1.

Saturday 22:40 GMT: If you love your movies dark and mysterious, then you’ll love ‘Zodiac’, the story of a crazed serial killer and the men hunting him down. Watch Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo decipher the code on BBC2.

Sunday 15:45 GMT: Our recommended family viewing this week is of the rather large and fluffy variety. ‘Beethoven’ is the perfect way to spend the Sunday afternoon on ITV2. Fun from beginning to end, this film encapsulates everything that you could possibly want from the perfect family film. 

DIG IT OUT

This is our favourite part of the WatchThisSpace section. We delve into our own DVD collection and pick out some amazing films, that may not instantly spring to mind when you’re stuck for inspiration to make your movie night a success. Maybe you’ve never seen a film that we pick – or even heard of them for that matter – but you’re gonna have to trust us on this one, and Dig It Out.

Step Brothers: With the news that ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ will get a sequel, we immediately thought of John C Reilly’s best live-action comedy showing. Alongside Will Ferrell, these two form one of the greatest comedy duos on the big screen and help to make this Adam McKay production one of our all time favourite comedies.

Aladdin: Also in the word of film last week, you may have seen that we reported plans are in place to create a live-action Aladdin prequel, based on the story of the genie in the lamp. We doubt that anyone will ever bring to life this magical story as perfectly as the late Robin Williams did, so enjoy the classic Disney animation and bask in the delightful voice of the legendary actor.

Blood Diamond: Last week saw the release of the first trailer for Leonardo Di Caprio’s new film, ‘The Revenant’. This time Leo is teaming up with Oscar-winning director Alejandro González Iñárritu in his latest bid for that golden statue. One of Leo’s “near-misses” in terms of Oscar awards was the fantastic ‘Blood Diamond’ (he was up against a worthy winner in Forrest Whittaker for his performance in ‘The Last King of Scotland’). Set in Sierra Leone, this is a harrowing story that pits the unrelenting greed of man up against the hope that humanity can triumph in the face of adversity. A must watch, regardless of whether you’ve seen it before or not.

American Gangster: The Ashes are in currently in full flow as England take on Australia. Even though we’re obviously cheering on the 3 lions, why not take a moment to appreciate one of Australia’s greatest living actors. Russell Crowe stars alongside Denzel Washington in this crime thriller. With fantastic performances all round and with Ridley Scott at the helm, this film is exactly as good as you’d hope it to be. Don’t expect all out action from beginning to end, expect something more well thought through, polished and stylish.

This week’s WatchThisSpace was compiled by Jakob Lewis Barnes and Nick Deal