Just when you thought the zombie genre was dead (undead?), along comes The Girl with All The Gifts.
Sure, this film boasts creepy children, an apocalypse, and deadly viruses, yet director Colm McCarthy manages to add an intelligent twist to familiar story territory. Because really, who’s watching The Walking Dead anymore?
It goes like this; in a dystopian UK, humanity has been ravaged by a fungal disease that turns people into flesh-eating ‘hungries.’ Melanie (Sennia Nanua) is one of a small group of afflicted children who have mysteriously retained their ability to empathise.
She escapes her prison-like zombie-school with teacher Miss Justineau (Gemma Arterton), surgeon Dr Caroline Caldwell (Glenn Close) and a handful of soldiers (led by Paddy Considine). This rag-tag crew battle a tidal-wave of hungries while simultaneously protecting one, and they’re about to discover just how vital Melanie is to their own survival.
You video gamers are probably picking up on the major The Last of Us vibes, but the film began its life as a novel by Mike Carey.
When the author is the hand writing the script, you know you’re in for an authentic adaption, even if that includes a lengthy retelling that sometimes feels sluggish.
Expect a few truly scary moments, especially when children’s teeth start snapping, mixed with a whole lot of thriller. But it’s the cast who shine brightest in this post-apocalyptic gloom as the sweet zombie with a conscience newcomer Sennia Nanua is entirely watchable, while Glenn Close delivers a strong performance as a bad scientist with good intentions.
By those unexpected final scenes, it’s clear that The Girl with All The Gifts has a lot more to say about what makes us human than your average ‘kill or be killed’ maxim.
If you like your zombie films all blood, no heart this might not be the flick for you. But give this one a go if you prefer something meatier to sink your teeth into.
– Ellin Williams