If the prospect of seeing Arnold Schwarzenegger grapple with a zombie threat in a post-apocalyptic thriller has you on the edge of your seat, prepare to sit back and adjust your expectations.
Arnie isn’t the indestructible undead ass-kicker you might predict and neither is Maggie the genre’s usual action-packed gore fest. Instead, British graphic designer Henry Hobson’s debut feature film is a sombre, mostly slow-moving arthouse drama whose hero is powerless to stop his nearest and dearest from succumbing to the zombie plague.
Which means Schwarzenegger has to flex his acting muscles for a change, playing a farmer in the American Midwest whose beloved daughter, Maggie (Abigail Breslin), has become infected during an outbreak of the so-called necro-ambulatory virus. This particular disease doesn’t turn its victims into shuffling zombies overnight, however, and up to eight weeks lie in store before Maggie, taken out of quarantine and back to the family farm by her devoted father, finally ‘turns’.
As the drama unfolds, there are one or two flurries of action and some grim episodes of body horror, but for the most part the film’s tempo is as gradual as the progress of the virus. That will be too slow for many horror fans, yet the device of showing a zombie plague from the inside out remains a fascinating one.
And the measured pace does allow Schwarzengger to show unaccustomed emotional depths as the grief-stricken father and gives Breslin, an Oscar nominee at 10 for Little Miss Sunshine, another chance to shine as the teenager whose mortality is cruelly written on her skin.
Certificate 15. Runtime 95 mins. Director Henry Hobson.