Maggie Vogel (Abigail Breslin) is sick. Zombie-ism sick. She is one of many bitten and infected, sentenced to death in eight weeks when the virus takes over her body.

However, her final weeks are spent in a world which is still functional. The government responded in time to the outbreak- they even printed literature. Food is growing scarce and the population is thinning, but the functionality of modern life remains. Phone, land lines and mobile, still work. Homes are not torn apart. Commerce still exists and doctors are still practicing.

Maggie is a “what if” zombie film, grounded in the context of undead cinema if less interesting because of it. The virus infecting Maggie could be cancer. This film could play out the same. If this was intended to be a narrative stand-in for a family emotionally gutted by real world illness, Maggie does not make it clear. Such an application would need to be personal.

Because Maggie is not using blanket allegories, it falls into shambles – a dull, lurching, somewhat old-fashioned zombie odyssey minus the zombies. Cinematography chugs along on repetitious dramatic close-ups of Arnold Schwarzenegger playing Wade, Maggie’s father. With the beard, Schwarzenegger seems to be culling the look of Joel from Sony’s Last of Us videogame. Admittedly, Maggie’s fiction is less derivative.

Maggie has nothing to say on death, the fear, or the certainty.

An avoidance of tropes is beneficial. Maggie is not a cure for mankind, nor is she immune. No one is. Zombie attacks are passive flashbacks while gore is limited. Maggie is propelled entirely by family drama – worried caregivers, confused children, resistance to the inevitable. Doctors even behave logically and realistically. The scenario as a whole feels genuine, if not enticing.

Problems here are leashed to Maggie’s lack of pay-off, a patient film building toward… something. Characters are constructed (although Breslin and Schwarzenegger are a pitiful father/daughter casting) and set loose in the drama to mope about while waiting for finality. Maggie has nothing to say on death, the fear, or the certainty. The approach portrays Maggie as brave, still spending weekends with friends as if she is not diseased at all. But then it’s stuck with nowhere to go and little to do other than wait. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Movie]

Cool shot @ 1:10:31

Maggie is seeking a film-like appearance for its digital cinematography. This means a substantial layer of noise masquerading as grain, an ineffectual post-production process even if Lionsgate handles the encoding work without added artifacts. End results still look like bothersome noise.

Post-production coloring takes nearly all saturation away. Were it not for some bright red garbage cans partway through, Maggie would barely register color. All is faded, usually into a dusty brown palette with a few instances where teals take over.

Black levels are likewise impacted, pulled out into a mild grays, or even matching the current palette choices. It is not uncommon to see tints of brown passing for shadows. Without dense blacks, the noise is readily apparent. Nothing can hide it.

Behind the layer of artificial buzzing sits a film with consistent definition. Close-ups are well rendered, while shots of the broken down cities (and farms) are defined. A number of exteriors are quite stunning. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]

DTS-HD work is definitely on the rumbly side, inserting frequent instances of LFE activity to create a sense of dread. Such use of the low-end is powerful. Generators and car engines create a spike too. Being so non-traditional, there are few gunshots and they’re off screen. However, the surrounds are still used with frequency.

From the outset, Maggie’s world of sirens, thinning hospitals, and constant storm threats (oddly without rain) offers the ambiance needed to create an extension of this world. Stereos help enhance short trips through forested areas, and the plains area where the film is set is always using light wind to assist. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Audio]

Director Henry Hobson provides lone commentating duties for the disc, followed by a general 18-minute making of. Six separate interviews (no play all) repeat some of the information from the featurette, and a deleted scene is a minor character moment. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Movie]


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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