THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS (2016)
(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)
Book based horror is an interesting and intriguing addition to the overcrowded zombie sub-genre. In this tale, a fungus has turned most of the world’s population into crazed carnivores seeking human and/or other living flesh for food. A small group of soldiers and scientists are trying to seek a cure through a group of infected children whose aggressive behavior is surpressed and only becomes volatile when they are hungry and in the proximity of prey, or the scent of the living. One such little girl, Melanie (Sennia Nanua) is the most intelligent and controlled of the subjects…and thus of the most interest to lead scientist, Dr. Caldwell (Glenn Close). When the “Hungries” overrun the base, a small group of survivors, including sympathetic teacher Miss Justineau (Gemma Arterton) and Caldwell, take Melanie on the run to find a safe haven, as the young girl may be mankind’s last hope. Along the way they find armies of Hungries and groups of feral children like the ones back at the base. Melanie now has a choice, to help save humanity or find a home amongst her own “kind”.
British flick is a mix of Day Of The Dead and Lord Of The Flies and thus keeps us interested with it’s focus on the “second generation” children of a zombie outbreak. The film is very effectively directed by Colm McCarthy from a script by Mike Carey, based on his book of the same name. Girl creates a very sympathetic and likable character in Melanie and this has us quite endeared to her despite the fact that there is a monster lurking beneath the skin. McCarthy also gives some intensity and chills to some of the more familiar sequences, even though fans of the genre have seen hordes of hungry zombies in action before. The fact that we have some likable characters in the mix like Miss Justineau, helps involve us with scenes like the Hungries overrunning the base and when the characters are in danger. The film has some clever ideas, such as the interesting slant of Melanie basically being able to walk amongst the Hungries unscathed, as she technically is one of them and thus goes from basically a prisoner to valued member of the team. Once the film switches gears from George A. Romero to William Golding, it becomes quite interesting as Melanie starts to wonder whether this is infection or evolution and realizes that the team needs her more than she needs them. There are also some very familiar clichés such as the self-serving scientist and the soldier with a grudge (Paddy Considine) along with many familiar zombie tropes. There are, obviously, some gruesome moments and some brutality, though McCarthy makes them effective by not overdoing it with the well-rendered blood-spattering. When it comes, it’s startling. There is also a really good score by Cristobal Tapia de Veer that adds atmosphere and the film is shot well by Simon Dennis, especially effective when the film changes settings to a London abandoned and overgrown with vegetation.
Another element that makes this work so well, is the cast. Young Sennia Nanua gives a simply amazing performance as Melanie. We see a girl who is intelligent, thoughtful and compassionate to the point of total compliance with being a test subject. We watch her slowly begin to realize just how important she is and then assume a position of dominance as she comes to the realization that she may be at the top of the food chain, as both predator and leader. In all aspects of her character, Nanua is captivating and in the last act she exudes a strength that grabs you. Her relationship with Arterton’s Miss Justineau is also crucial, as she is the anchor to which Melanie’s humanity is tethered. The two actors have a genuine chemistry that makes the friendship work and the affection seem genuine. Gemma Arterton once again proves she is more than a pretty face with a strong turn as the caring teacher who sees her students as more than monsters…even to a fault. Veteran Glenn Close is also strong as scientist Dr. Caldwell. Sure the character is cliché, but the veteran actress gives her some depth, even when she becomes the cold, ruthless, scientist we expect from the role. Rounding out is Paddy Considine who is also good as the soldier with a hatred for the Hungies and who treats the children like the monsters he feels they are. The character has a bit of depth, especially when we find the root of his anger. Cliché but effective thanks to a solid actor in the part.
Overall, I really liked this flick despite feeling the zombie sub-genre needs a much needed break. The film has some familiar elements, but also does it’s own thing with a fascinating lead character in Melanie and an interesting Lord Of The Flies slant in it’s second half. We have a solid script from Carey and some very effective direction from Colm McCarthy. The cast are all very good, with young lead Sennia Nanua really making an impression with a layered and sometimes powerful performance of a unique little girl in an unthinkable situation. Not a completely original zombie flick, but one that has enough of it’s own ideas to make it effective and refreshing enough in an overcrowded sub-genre.
3 and 1/2 girls with all the gifts.