When I think of British zombie movies my first thought immediately goes to Egdar Wright’s brilliant comedy-horror Shaun of the Dead. The Girl with All the Gifts promises a completely different tone as well as a new spin on the well-worn genre. But is it any good?
Melanie is not your average girl. Her and her classmates are kept in an underground bunker where armed soldiers restrain them in wheelchairs when they attend class. It’s the near future where a fungal infection has wiped out most of civilisation and turned the infected into mindless ‘hungries’ who eat human flesh. As Melanie and the other children are a particular hybrid the scientists hope to observe them in order to save humanity. All of this is put at risk when a large group of hungries attack the base and Melanie finds herself with a small group of survivors struggling to find a safe haven.
You may be sick of zombie movies or dystopia futures but The Girl with All the Gifts is a pleasant addition to both genres. I have not read the 2014 book of the same name so I don’t know how faithful this adaptation is, but I was enthralled by the world that was created. The fungal infection is a interesting take on the zombie bite (and the inspiration behind it is terrifying in itself). It’s a bleak future and not exactly a laugh a minute but there’s also warmth and small bits of hope to found.
What also makes The Girl with All the Gifts stand out is that it does away with the simple humans good/zombies bad routine. The humans are a mixed bunch and their motivations are complicated, showing all sides have a point regarding how Melanie should be treated. Having a talented cast like Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine and Glenn Close also helps make you care for the characters. Melanie herself is also played brilliantly by newcomer Sennia Nanua, who whilst being very sympathetic, still provides a believable threat to the other members of the group.
The film manages to pose moral questions regarding Melanie and her fate while also ensuring that the film works as horror. The attack on the base is thrilling to watch and a scene where the group have to quietly get pass a huge crowd of unstimulated hungries is full of tension in it’s execution. And horror fans should be please to note there’s also plenty of blood and gore to satisfy along with the emotional weight.