Right off the bat we are introduced to a society already taken by the zombie plague, however the world while still ravaged has a new struggling society in place trying to survive the initial outbreak and live with it. The film sets up the world in the beginning through radio reports and Wade (Arnold Schwarzenegger) driving through the chaotic landscapes of the city looking for his daughter Maggie (Abigail Breslin). The "Necroambulist" virus has spread throughout the world through contact with the infected. Farmers are burning their crops for fear their harvest might succumb to the virus. We are treated to a small glimpse of this world while Wade searches for Maggie through very industrial looking skies covered in smoke and gray color palates reflecting the hopelessness of this worlds situation.
Maggie is brought to a hospital where she is tagged by the doctor as infected and only has a short time to live. Through Wade's friendship with the doctor he is allowed to bring Maggie home with the knowledge that someone will be sent for her when the time comes. It is now Wade, his wife Carolyn and Maggie. The film progresses as we watch Maggie decay and Carolyn's struggle to cope. Wade cannot bring himself to leave Maggie's side as he made a promise on her mother's death bed that he would always take care of her even into these strange and dire situations.
The heart of this movie is their love for one another. The first time we see them together on screen is a heart wrenching embrace that sells their characters perfectly without any dialogue necessary. Some of the finest acting from either one of them. In scenes without Maggie, Arnold plays his character very stoic yet contemplative. You can see the sub text within each movement and face gesture he makes. While a good portion of the promotion of this film is of both actors, as the title suggests this is Abigail Breslin's movie. She has to carry the weight of her own impending death with her. Reflecting on past and present trying to come to terms with her future.
There's moments where Maggie's character self-reflection not only sets this film apart as a beautiful story but an original zombie film. The Necroambulist Virus is treated as such, a virus. Doctors check up on Maggie giving her false hope. The infected are allowed to live a normal life for a time period pending registration with the authorities and there are even pamphlets of the symptoms prepared for the infected's family members. Loss of appetite and heightened sense if smell. Once the infected shows these signs they are to be reported and taken to quarantine. Through Maggie's interactions with other characters who are infected we see through the zombie's pain and fear for the first time since we were introduced to Day of the Dead's Bub. Only here we can fully understand and dread the outcome. Some might say the pacing of the film is slow, but each moment within gives way to the plot and unraveling of Maggie's emotions. This brings us to the difficulty these actors face as with very little dialogue they must carry the film with their facial expressions and body movements. For much if the film, Breslin has on her sunglasses to hide her eyes from people. She relishes in any beauty seen around her. Flowers planted by her mother, children playing with toys, the gaze of a lover's eyes. Moments like this she removes her glasses to fully appreciate this beauty with her own eyes and in those moments we see the weight of sorrow and longing for those simple things.
First time director Henry Hobson has crafted a beautiful film to add to the zombie mythos. There is only one plot hole, why did Maggie run away from home in the first place? There is an allusion as to why that possibly shows Maggie is not happy with her step mom, but is it worse than facing zombies? If you are looking for another zombie action thrill ride this ain't it. While the opening of the film is grandiose, it devolves quickly into a one setting film within the home of Wade that might throw some people off at first, but you must settle into it as the beautiful drama it is. I give it three and a half bite marks out of five! Not quite dead but good enough to spread! Watch those teeth!