Ever since I first got into the horror genre, I have been a big fan of the zombie subcategory. From my beginnings with George A. Romero’s iconic Night Of, Dawn Of and Day Of The Dead to filmmakers who started to play within the usual tropes, like Edgar Wright’s Shaun Of The Dead, Ruben Fleisher’s Zombieland and, hell, I’ll even give Zack Snyder a break for his really great remake of Dawn Of The Dead. Beyond that, and some other unmentioned gems, the whole zombie thing has felt overdone, overused and, in this Walking Dead driven pop culture zeitgeist, very, very oversaturated. If you’re going to garner any kind of originality in this area you will need a pretty groundbreaking idea to perk up the eyes and ears of hardened horror fans and I think a new British film just did it.
Based on a novel of the same name, The Girl With All The Gifts takes place in a deadly future setting of the United Kingdom after a major biological outbreak. Fungal growth has seized the public and turned them into bloodthirsty monsters referred to as “hungries”. The only hope for humanity is a military base that houses a research lab headed up by a ruthless doctor, Caroline Caldwell, played by Glenn Close. Her project deals with the children born from infected hosts, who have the ability to think, talk and feel but are also triggered by the smell of human flesh, reverting them to being just like the other monsters. At the head of this “class” of children is one special girl, Melanie (played with amazing precision by young actress Sennia Nanua), who forms a tight bond with her teacher, Helen Justineau (Gemma Arterton). Melanie may be the key to human survival but things hurtle out of control when the base is overrun and Helen, Melanie, Dr. Caldwell and a pessimistic Sergeant Parks (Paddy Considine) are thrust into the dangerous zombie ridden landscape.
Everything about The Girl With All The Gifts is so massively compelling. The film sets up the relationships with each actor very quickly. Our heavier military characters, like Caldwell and Sergeant Parks, are very much end goal orientated and don’t share the same feelings Helen does towards Melani, treating her like a largely expendable lab experiment. Helen, obviously sees the human traits more and serves as a protector to the child, even in the harrowing and uncertain landscape. Arterton and Nanua’s scenes together add the weight of such beautiful heart to the thrills of this horror film and really drive your attachment to each plot point of this film.
Adapting his own 2014 novel, writer M.R. Carey brings a story that is so massively immersive with slight parallels to what we saw in the Alex Garland written 28 Days Later but touching on more of a feeling of hope, whether it be for humankind or these new hybrid children that are the result of this new world. This is that much more compelling with the direction of breakout feature film director Colm McCarthy, with only one other small film under his belt, and the incredible vision of cinematographer Simon Dennis, who shot Nicolas Winding Refn’s debut Pusher. The Girl With All The Gifts is a perfect example of every facet in a film’s production coming together to make a piece of cinema that has the ability to transcend the genre in many different ways. This movie is a must see. 5/5