Sommerleigh Pollonais, Horror Head Writer
This October I decided to watch and review some of those great horror movies (31 to be exact) that I missed on their initial release. And for Part 9 of my series of the 31 OF THE BEST HORROR MOVIES YOU (MAY HAVE) MISSED we will be checking out zombie flick The Girl with All the Gifts. Let’s get to it:
Day 9 of 31: The Girl with All the Gifts (2016)
Director: Colm McCarthy
Starring: Sennia Nanua, Gemma Arterton, Glenn Close
IMDb Trivia: The film shares similar themes and plot points to the PS4 video game The Last of Us. Both feature a fungal zombie plague, both have a last stage of infection where people sprout spore pods, both zombies overwhelming rely on a single sense (smell and sound respectively) meaning the heroes can move through hordes, both feature a young girl who potentially has the cure who needs to be moved through the infected zone, both focus on her relationship with a gruff reluctant father figure. The similarities were highlighted in several reviews.
Plot: A scientist and a teacher living in a dystopian future embark on a journey of survival with a special young girl named Melanie.
Review: At this point in time we’ve seen so many zombie movies it feels impossible to make any story that contains these particular undead creatures exciting or interesting, but somehow that’s exactly what they do with The Girl with All the Gifts.
Adulthood and evolution are the themes explored here in a screenplay by Mike Cary (who also wrote the novel) and brought to glorious life by director Colm McCarthy. The cinematography made me think of 28 Days Later while the first act location looks and feels a bit like Romero’s Day of the Dead, yet originality is the word of the day here as I came away from this movie feeling like I had seen something that not only paid homage to the zombie sub-genre, it added a new level of freshness to it.
The story follows three main characters. Melanie (Sennia Nanua) is a preteen girl who like most girls her age goes to school every day and has a favourite teacher she feels close to in Ms Justineau (Gemma Arterton of Clash of the Titans, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters). Where things are different is young Melanie, like all of the other children around her, is afflicted with a virus that will eventually turn her into a zombie. The adults actually have the ability to trigger this change if they don’t wear their anti-human scent cologne (sorry, but that’s the best way I can describe it) and all of the children are kept in a military bunker where they are experimented on by Dr Caroline Caldwell (Glenn Close) in the hopes of finding a cure.
So far this probably all sounds like your by-the-numbers zombie fest right? Well, what’s different here is Melanie and the other kids are second generation zombies dubbed “hungries”. Without getting too much into spoiler territory these kids, unlike the zombies that came before them, seem to have the ability to retain their higher brain functions. And Melanie seems to be even smarter than the rest which makes her the target of Dr Caldwell’s interest as she wants to know exactly what makes the girl tick.
While I might have my own issues with the television series The Walking Dead one of the things I admire about it was how lived in that world looks and feels. The same can be said with The Girl with All the Gifts. From the military base where the children live, the clothing, set design and location shots all look and feel genuine. Green is the colour of choice here (even the movie poster contains a lot of this color) and once the survivors are out in the world, we can see how much nature has thrived without humanity there to trample over it.
The second act does slow things down a bit and the zombie kills, gore and such is also your standard fare, but with performances this good it’s hard to call this anything but great. Choosing to keep the cast small means we can spend time with these characters, time to know them and care about them enough to care about their fates. Solid performances are backed by a solid story as well. A few films out there have touched on evolution and how humanity needs to accept their inevitable end so “new things” can grow in its place, but not many have done it as effectively as this movie does.
So while you can easily sit down and point out other zombie films this movie pulled inspiration from, none of that takes away from the strong world-building, solid acting and well-crafted story found here. Recently a friend of mind was saying to me “there are no new stories, they’ve all been told or written” and “you have to find that angle that makes them feel new again”. And that’s exactly what I found with The Girl with All the Gifts.
Sommer’s Score: 7 out of 10
So what’s your favourite modern horror movie? You can check out Part 8 of my 31 Days List Berberian Sound Studio below along with a ranking of all the Romero zombie films:
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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