Arnold Schwarzenegger breaks away from action and comedy with this zombie film that, while it tries to break the mold, only partially succeeds.
The film attempts to serve as an intimate drama rather than as a horror epic. The unusual tone and admirably scaled-back scope serve to differentiate it from the average zombie film, but at times it seems like a compression of the touchy-feely elements that sometimes weigh down the Walking Dead television series.
The plot features the titular character returning to her family's farmhouse after trying to run away. During her stay in the city, she is bitten by a zombie during an outbreak of the living dead. Her reasons for running away are oddly unexplored, which is in keeping with director Henry Hobson's deliberately oblique approach -- it's as though Terrence Maliick is directing a script by George A. Romero.
Schwarzenegger is well cast as Maggie's father, who is striving to make his daughter feell loved before the zombie virus takes hold and she must be turned in to the authorities for containment. One character advises him that it would be kinder to dispose of her himself when her condition worsens.
Schwarzenegger's craggy face and tempered manner is perfect for this role. One can imagine a sliightly younger Clint Eastwood being even better in this part.
The acting in this movie isuniversally good, with Abigail Breslin perfectly nailing the pivotal role. Joelly Richardson turns in the best characterization as Maggie's stepmother, who is willing to put down her decling stepdaughter of the father isn't.
She is helped by screenwriter John Scott III, who avoids turning the character into what could have been a stereotypical evil stepmother. Her actions are understandable and sympathetic given the circumstances.
The details involving the zombie outbreak are intelligently conceived and David Wingo's musical score balances dramatic and horror motifs well. However, the emphasis on drama over horror may dissapoint some viewers and it never shakes the impression of almost but not quite breaking fresh ground.