Yes, here we are with yet another zombie film to add to the ever expanding list. Even a huge zombie aficionado such as myself is getting a little tired of this genre. That being said, The Girl with All the Gifts, based on M.R. Carey’s novel of the same name, stands out from the hoard of cliché walking dead films.
The basic premise is that a fungal infection has turned much of the populace into mindless zombies, known as “hungries” in this universe. Because, you know, nobody has ever heard of zombies for some reason in these movies. There is a ray of hope: there are children who still retain most of their humanity even after they are infected with the sickness. They are kept on a military base for scientific observation under heavy restraints. One such hybrid child by the name of Melanie (newcomer Sennia Nanua) has genius level intelligence and is the best at keeping her cannibalistic urges at bay.
The Girl with All the Gifts borrows heavily from other media in this genre—the fungal infection was used in the game The Last of Us and the diseased humans act a lot like the rage infected people in 28 Days Later. What saves this from being completely cliché is the high quality direction by Colm McCarthy (known for directing the second season of the television show Peaky Blinders) and Sennia’s inspired performance as Melanie. She is equally endearing and frightening as she goes between an inquisitive precocious child and a ravenous monster. She wears a face shield not unlike Hannibal Lector and it’s incredibly creepy looking with her blood-covered face behind it. The rest of the cast is pretty good, with a surprisingly hammy Glenn Close as the fanatical Dr. Caroline Caldwell and an earnest Gemma Arterton as Helen Justineau, the teacher with a bleeding heart for the hybrids.
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When the shit hits the fan the action is hot and heavy—I haven’t seen mayhem like this in a zombie flick in a while. I really dug the makeup work on the zombi…I mean hungries and they are fast and ferocious. The first third of the film is especially intriguing, but about halfway thorough it falls back on comfortable tropes. There are some twists and turns that are clever and I found the ending to be chilling. The music score, by Cristobal Tapia de Veer, is evocative and uses children singing for an eerie vibe. It’s a strong element to why this movie is so intriguing even with its reliance on things we have seen before.
Overall, this is a good film that fans of zombies would not regret watching. It manages to find a fresh perspective and throws in a few surprises even for the most seasoned horror veteran.