Ever since director Victor Halperin reanimated the dearly departed in the 1932 thriller White Zombie, the shuffling undead have become a staple of the horror genre.
George A Romero popularised zombies as voracious, flesh-hungry predators in his 1968 cult classic Night Of The Living Dead, inspiring numerous sequels, remakes and gore-slathered imitators.
Maggie unfolds in a bleak, colour-bleached future ravaged by a deadly contagion, which takes six to eight weeks from infection to transform a healthy human host into a monstrous husk, capable of spreading the virus with a single bite.
There are explosions of bloody violence in Henry Hobson’s post-apocalyptic thriller, and one wince-inducing moment with a kitchen knife, but the writer-director chooses to focus on the emotional devastation wrought by such an outbreak rather than the frenzied battle for survival.
By refracting a global disaster through the eyes of one beleaguered family, the director and screenwriter John Scott III creates moments of pathos and heartbreak that will be familiar to fans of the TV series The Walking Dead.
His hero is widower Wade Vogel (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who spends two weeks searching for missing daughter Maggie (Abigail Breslin) in cities overrun by the Necroambulist virus.
By reducing the gore to a minimum, Hobson starves his film of intense visceral thrills
Wade eventually tracks her down at a hospital, where she has been admitted with a bite from the infected.
Wade spirits Maggie home to the family ranch to enjoy what little time they have left and as the girl’s predatory instincts take hold, Caroline urges Wade to make the ultimate sacrifice.
Maggie is blessed with one of Schwarzenegger’s best performances, courtesy of a script that is lean on dialogue and heavy on close-ups.
By reducing the gore to a minimum, Hobson starves his film of intense visceral thrills.
However, dramatic momentum remains slow and steady, like the relentless shuffle of the undead in search of prey.