Dir: Henry Hobson
Star: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abigail Breslin, Joely Richardson, Douglas M. Griffin
It’s a staple of the zombie genre: a character gets bitten, and faces the inevitability of a painful death, and return as one of the living dead. Typically, it’s just a subplot, with the victim wheeled out and briskly disposed of without excessive angst. Here: it’s the entire frickin’ movie, which is little more than a 95-minute death scene for Breslin, and is about as soul-sappingly downbeat as it sounds. It does offer a slightly different take on the zombie apocalypse, with a world where they are apparently not common, and a certain degree of stability has resumed, albeit at a lower level of civilization. While infection remains fatal, it’s a slow, drawn-out process, taking weeks or months before the infected have to be quarantined for the safety of those around them – a process enforced rigorously by the government.
Maggie (Breslin) in one such victim, but is taken home by her father (Schwarzenegger) to spend her remaining days, along with her stepmother (Richardson), on the farm where she grew up. While you can admire the performances – Arnie’s limited range works for him here, as a character struggling to come to terms with a terrible situation – this is neither interesting nor enlightening. Maggie spends most of her time moping around which, if understandable, isn’t exactly entertaining. [There’s a joke in here about how you tell the difference between a zombie and a teenage girl, that I can’t quite find. Something along the lines of “one shuffles around, moaning incessantly – and the other’s a zombie.” Yeah, work in progress]
It’s the cinematic equivalent of your daily commute: we know where it starts, we know where it’s heading, and the journey is largely monotonous. While I suppose the slow degeneration of a young woman in the prime of her life into living death is sad, we’re given no particular reason to care for Maggie, and she’s already infected when we first meet her. I think the final straw was the shot of Maggie’s zombie feet, which only made me think of Shaun of the Dead. Unrepressed giggling was definitely not the intended emotion.