We gave it a B-
Gas-station bathrooms are scary enough places, even when there’s not a zombie virus spreading across the country. At the beginning of Maggie, a Kansas farmer named Wade fuels up his truck and then wanders through an empty convenience store, opens the men’s-room door, and finds a rabid ghoul hiding inside. We’ve watched enough scenes like that in the nearly 50 years since Night of the Living Dead that we don’t quite share his shock. What is surprising, though, is that Wade is played by Arnold Schwarzenegger—bearded and every bit as grizzled and growly as Tommy Lee Jones in a Western—in the lowest-key performance and possibly the lowest-budget movie of his career.
Wade survives the fiend in the toilet but has even more trouble back home: His teenage daughter, Maggie (Abigail Breslin), has become infected. There’s an incubation period of six weeks before her one-way ticket to Zombieland. Clouds are brewing in the sky, always fixing to storm, and in his first feature, director Henry Hobson builds tension from the disquiet of the family farmhouse, where Maggie sulks in sunglasses as her stepmother (Joely Richardson) looks on with alarm. A visit to the town doctor also yields palpable unease because we’re primed for the moment when the rage-infected girl will eat up a whole ICU. Maggie, to its credit, doesn’t go there. But it doesn’t really go anywhere else, either. The characters’ calm attitude about quarantine is nuts in this age of Ebola hysteria, and there’s no compelling metaphor to draw from the over-earnest narrative. Still, the sight of Schwarzenegger in this small, subdued role makes us root for his survival. That’s the power of star wattage at work. Not even the undead can kill it. B–