Sunday 2 August 2015

Maggie by John Scott 3

William H. Gass's collection of short stories In the Heart of the Heart of the Country depicted a rural America of unremitting bleakness. His tales are grim, grey and gloomy. 

But never in his darkest moments did Gass come up with a story of farmer who has to watch his beloved daughter slowly turning into a zombie.

That's the plot of Maggie. As soon as I glimpsed the rather alluring poster (the one with the large face and the shotgun) I knew I had to see this movie. Arnold Schwarzenegger in a tenderly emotional zombie flick? How could I resist? 

Maggie has some good things going for it. For example, there has been a zombie plague, but humanity has put it down pretty quickly — which is way more plausible than most of these movies. (After all, they're zombies; they're not hard to outsmart.)

The other novel aspect is that, in Maggie, the zombie virus has a long gestation period. Once you get bit it takes you a month or two to 'turn'. The problem with this is, it's hard to imagine how the zombie plague could ever get started in the first place with such a long lead time...

Anyway, Schwarzenegger is a farmer. Maggie (Abigail Breslin) is his teenage runaway daughter who has been bitten. Arnie brings her home to tenderly care for her as she slowly and inevitably turns into a rotting, ravenous, revenant.

There are some fun moments in the film. As Maggie scratches at the hideous zombie bite on her arm, her father snaps "Don't pick at it!" And there are a couple of suspenseful bits when Schwarzenegger fights zombie attackers.

But in the end, a sullen and moody teenager stomping around the house is just a sullen and moody teenager, even if she is slowly (very slowly) turning into a zombie. 

Maggie is not a very gripping picture. It doesn't have a great deal of plot development or emotional variation. And it's often murky in the wrong kind of way — I didn't know Maggie's stepmother (played by the excellent Joely Richardson) wasn't her birth mother until way too late.

I wondered how this movie came about — it's so oddball — and I did a bit of research. It turns out that the screenplay by John Scott 3 was a hot spec script back in 2011, just when the zombie bandwagon was getting rolling. (A spec script is one which is written speculatively, without a guaranteed buyer; it's how most new writers break in.) Maggie attracted attention because it was a fresh new angle on the genre.
But the problem is, it's too much a family drama to work as a zombie movie, and too much of a zombie movie to work as a family drama.

(Image credits: All the posters are from Imp Awards.)

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