Written by Shannon McGrew
Zombie movies are a dime a dozen and have become a staple within the horror genre. This past year, a handful of films focused on the zombie invasion, most notably the surprise thriller “Train to Busan”. However, there was another movie that deserved the same amount of recognition; a film that not only had a tremendous amount of heart but was also able to satisfy even the most hardcore zombie fan – that film is “The Girl With All The Gifts”.
“The Girl With All The Gifts”, based off the novel of the same name by Mike Carey, is directed by Colm McCarthy and stars Gemma Arterton, Sennia Nanua, Glenn Close and Paddy Considine. The story, set in a dystopian future, centers around Melanie, an extraordinary young girl who may be the key to curing a mysterious fungal disease that causes humans to become blood-thirsty ‘hungries.’
What I loved about this film was the by far the story. Though we, the viewer, are supposed to fear the ‘hungries’, there are moments when it becomes difficult too. You see, Melanie is part of a small group of children who are infected with this fungal disease but are still able to think and feel. By all accounts they are normal human beings, that is until they get a whiff of a non-infected person, at which point they become ravenous. Because of this, these children are studied and tested upon by scientists who are hoping to discover the cure of this disease. The children are guarded and treated as nothing more than a number on a sheet, with the exception of the school teacher, Ms. Justineau (Gemma Arterton) who sees them, especially Melanie, for the beings they truly are.
The beginning of the film really sets the scene for how Melanie is treated throughout the majority of the film. Looking further into the movie, past the first layer, “The Girl With All The Gifts” showcases how we treat those we don’t understand. Bringing to life our main character, Melanie, is actress Sennia Nanua, who is absolutely outstanding. Though all the actors involved are superb, Sennia really shines through as the breakout of the film. She embodies Melanie with such perfection that she is able to evoke a slew of emotions from her incredible performance.
Being as this is a zombie film, there is no shortage of gore and carnage; however it’s not over the top or unnecessary. What really impressed me though was the makeup effects that were used to transform these once ordinary people info fungal-infected killing machines. The beginning of the film shows the majority of the population as what most would envision a zombie to look; however, as the film progresses, their features begin to change to the point that it looks as though they are becoming a heavily distorted piece of greenery. The metamorphosis that takes place is nothing less than spectacular and the makeup FX team should be thrilled with what they have created.
Helping to push the story further along was the exceptional musical score and beautiful cinematography. When I first watched “The Girl With All The Gifts”, I didn’t appreciate how expressive and haunting the score was, but having watched it again, I now acknowledge how fitting it was for the story unfolding. The score is very understated, but when you focus on it, it begins to take on a life of its own, weaving the story together as a whole. In terms of the cinematography, the landscape we are shown is desolate and hopeless with a forgotten beauty to it. It’s strikingly visual against the harsh reality of what’s happened, but that juxtaposition works so well with the overall theme of the film.
Overall, “The Girl With All The Gifts” is a near masterpiece in the zombie horror genre. It’s a stunning yet grim story that illustrates how quickly we are to judge those that are different from us regardless of if those are the ones that could save us. There were a few moments where I felt the story lagged a bit but other than that, I see no issues with this film. Fans of zombie films that like to have more meat on its bone will have their appetite sated with “The Girl With All The Gifts”. Those of you who are tired of films and TV shows that focus heavily on the undead, I feel your pain, but don’t let this film pass you by as you will not be disappointed.
“The Girl With All The Gifts” is now available to own on Blu-ray Combo Pack (plus DVD and Digital HD), DVD and Digital HD from Lionsgate Home Entertainment.