If I had a pound for every film that I had seen that had tried to re-imagine the zombie genre I would be… Well, a bit richer I guess. Films that claim to ‘turn a genre on its head’ are hardly the scourge of the earth, but it’s generally when horror tropes and characters are used in increasingly zany ways that we realise that things have gone to far (Gangs of the Dead (2006), Zombie Strippers (2008), Zoombies (2016) etc).
The Girl with All the Gifts a film based on the book of the same name offers yet another take on the zombie idea. This post apocalyptic piece is set in a world filled with 28 Days Later-sytle monsters. But this situation isn’t as black and white as usual, for in a government facility the army are keeping close guard over a bunch of children who are accidental human/zombie hybrids. These kids seem normal until they get a sniff of human scent which termporarily turns them into a ravaging flesh eater until their hunger has been satiated.
Helen Justineau (Gemma Arterton) is tasked with educating these half breeds while stern Sergent Eddie Parks (Paddy Considine) oversees and Dr. Caroline Caldwell (Glenn Close) uses the children as test subjects to find a cure for the contagion.
But two things make thgis scenario all the more interesting. First, one of the children named Melanie (Sennia Nanua) seems different from the others and shows more promise intellectually, somehow being able to better control her carnivorous urges. And secondly, soon after the scene is set in the facility a hoarde of zombies over-runs the place and a handful of staff including Helen, Sgt Parks and Dr. Caldwell are forced to flee with Melanie in tow.
As the group seeks sanctuary, they have plenty to think about: where their next meal will come from; where the next zombie ambush will come from; whether Dr. Caldwell should be allowed to chop up a seemingly normal child (Melanie) as she may hold the key to a cure – Melanie is obviously very opposed to this idea; and how long will it be before a giant plant containing the zombie contagion explodes and turns every living thing into a deadwalker.
Although the scenario isn’t too different from films that we have seen before, The Girl with All The Gifts is an enjoyable film. The acting is good, thanks to the high quality talent that is involved, Sennia Nanua taking the lead as an immediately likable and engaging character that audiance immediately roots for.
The concept of the zombie fungal infection is plausible enough as is the desperate tug of war between the teacher and the scientist with a seemingly innocent child caught in between. The action is good and the tension is ample making the whole package captivating.
Best of all there are enough twists and turns along the way to reassure the most cynical film fan that this isn’t just another zombie movie. It’s well worth taking the time to watch.