Sunday, May 24, 2015


I said as much in "Next Week in Tickets" at the time, but it is genuinely bizarre to me that the new Arnold Schwarzenegger zombie movie was getting such a tiny opening, at least around here, limited to the Coolidge's 14-seat "GoldScreen", likely because the major theaters aren't going to play something also released on demand and I guess the guys who program Fresh Pond, who will usually give a small screen to something with a recognizable star even if it does have alternate avenues, were full up with Avengers and Bollywood that week. Sure, Arnold is not the draw he once was, but this just seems kind of crazy.

Having seen it, I don't know whether it necessarily deserves a wide release, especially when compared to other genre movies of similar scale and ambition that work better even without a Schwazeneggerian element, but just about every week will present a question of what "deserve" matters, and it's peculiar to see the that Arnold's star has diminished so much during his time as Governor, especially since most of what he's done since his return has either been pretty good or had him as one of the best parts. Do people just not like the guy any more, or are they not as taken with "Old Arnold" as many genre fans have been.

I also suspect that skipping the festival circuit - including a last-minute yank from the Toronto International Film Festival's "Midnight Madness" program - has not done it any favors. This is the sort of smallish film that needs to own the horror community, and part of that means coverage from Midnight Madness, Fantastic Fest, SXSW midnights, BUFF, and then maybe an earlier release. Instead, Lionsgate basically sat on it until a couple weeks before release, when it played Tribeca. Enough people liked it a lot more than me that the internet certainly could have been cheering for it, but Lionsgate didn't take the opportunity.

So it wound up in the tiny room, and as a result I almost missed it. I tend to avoid the GoldScreen from Friday to Sunday, just because I don't like buying tickets in advance (there is a shockingly good correlation between that and having trouble making the start time), and then there were two different problems with the MBTA on Monday and Tuesday. I got there just in time on Wednesday, but, yikes, it can be nice having options when the schedule is tight.


* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 13 May 2015 in the Coolidge Corner Theatre GoldScreen (first-run, digital)

Show me Maggie at a genre film festival with a cast of unknowns, and I likely react with unreserved excitement. That is, after all, the natural life-cycle and scale of movies such which play with genre conventions the way this one does. This one's got Arnold Schwarzenegger in the middle of it, and for all that this is intriguing in its own right, it throws things off even more than such an imperfect fit otherwise might.

He plays Wade Vogel, a farmer whose daughter has gone missing, which is even worse than usual, as an "necronambulant" plague is sweeping the country. When he finds Maggie (Abigail Breslin), she is infected, and though early quarantine is encouraged, he takes her back to the farm. Soon she will begin showing late-stage symptoms and need to be taken away for everybody's safety, but as another infected family demonstrates, that can be a hard thing to accept.

"Hard thing to accept" is the engine that makes Maggie run, more than most zombie movies. As the genre has matured, though, this has become a depressingly standard part of the storyteller's arsenal; that somebody will have to put down a creature that is no longer the person they loved most in the world or will have that as part of their tragic backstory is just a grim inevitability, enough so to have gone from wrenching to cynical. Writer John Scott 3 has not turned the premise inside out the way a team of Korean filmmakers did in The Neighbor Zombie, but he and director Henry Hobson hit on the idea of drawing the incubation period out, and by doing so push it away from being simply device to something audiences will recognize: A terminal disease followed by hard decisions about euthanasia. It's a more direct way of addressing modern fears of plague and disease, from the delusion that you can fight it through shear force of will to how authority tries to keep things together.

Full review on EFC.

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