The film world has never been short in the zombie genre. The market is over saturated with cheap Romero rip offs and unfunny comedic attempts that tend to go straight to DVD. The Girl with All the Gifts may be a post-apocalyptic zombie story but it brings some much needed originality to the table.
Penned by Mike Carey who has adapted his novel of the same name, the plot features a familiar Armageddon scenario where flesh eating monstrosities called hungries run amok and mankind are holed up in military bases. The focus here is on a base not far from London where the army rule and children are educated by the kind Helen Justineau (Gemma Arterton) Helen takes a particular shine to Melanie (Sennia Nanua). The young girl has a genius IQ and has a reciprocating affection towards Helen. The children of her classroom harbour a disturbing genetic trait that can see them turn into bloodthirsty beasts. When the base is attacked, Helen and Melanie find themselves escaping with Sgt. Eddie Parks (Paddy Considine), a soldier with disdain for the children, and Dr. Caroline Caldwell (Glenn Close) who has great plans for Melanie. It’s an uneasy alliance but they all have one goal. Survive.
The parallels with 28 Days Later are evident yet this is no mere copy of Danny Boyle’s game changing movie. Colm McCarthy’s gaze masks the film in realism despite its sci-fi roots. The world is recognisable with many famous brands emblazoned on the screen although this is a neglected England that’s seen nature take over in the absence of humans.
The impressive cast all deliver strong performances with Arteron, Considine and Close forming an uncomfortable association as they circle the wildcard that is Nanua’s Melanie. Nanua is brilliant, flawlessly switching from adorably intriguing to fearsome predator. Her presence will keep you on the edge of your seat, a ticking time bomb that could turn on her allies at any given moment. She isn’t the villain of the story, and although the hungries are the traditional movie monsters, Close’s icy doctor is the least sympathetic character.
The Girl with All the Gifts breathes fresh air into the horror genre with a creative script and masterful storytelling. There are a couple of illogical plot points that will have you scratching your head, however your hands are more likely to be gripped to your arm rests. It has its scares but at the core of the plot there is a warm heart that highlights a wonderful drama amongst the carnage.