Tuesday, 4 October 2016

The Girl with All the Gifts (2016) - Zombie Horror Film Review

When I first saw British zombie film The Girl with All the Gifts trailered in the cinema I was surprised as had never heard of it before. Apparently it is based on a book, one that to my mind bears many similarities with the video game The Last of Us.

The movies is set in England around ten years after a fungal based zombie apocalypse swept the world. Survivors are holed up at military bases that are under constant assault by the infected that the humans have came to call 'hungries'. At one such base Melanie (Sennia Nanua); a young girl is kept imprisoned along with a bunch of other children who we see early on are actually all infected themselves (and so hated and feared by the majority of the survivors), yet somehow able to function as normal as long as they are not hungry. Unknown to them they are secretly being experimented on by Dr. Caroline Caldwell (Glenn Close) who hopes to create a vaccine using their brain tissue and spinal fluid. One day the base finally becomes over run, Caldwell, Melanie, Sgt. Eddie Parks (Paddy Considine), a few other soldiers, and Melanie's beloved teacher Helen (Gemma Arterton) manage to escape and head to London where they hope to establish contact with other nearby bases.

I was not sure what I would think of this seeing as a child is in the lead role, children are hit and miss when it comes to their acting ability and to be honest I'm not a hundred percent sure what I think of Nanua. She is not the worst child actress in the world, though I found the prim and proper way she pronounced all her lines made her seem a bit smarmy. She does a great job as someone who has spent their lives unknowingly imprisoned and so very innocent to the outside world. Being infected the hungries have no interest in her and so she is able to operate around them without any fear, her desire for flesh was an interesting concept that is visited on many occasions, affecting how characters around her treated her as a monster rather than a somebody. Physically she does a great job and I am not sure if her character itself was meant to be so polite rather than her style of acting. Close, Arterton and the other small main cast are all good in their roles, especially Considine who has quite a character arc for his solider he plays who at first hates Melanie but gradually comes to like her. Some of the side characters were not so amazing but they had so little screen time that this wasn't a huge deal.

The Girl with All the Gifts reminded me of quite a few different things. Firstly as I mentioned in my introduction I could not help but get a strong sense of The Last of Us. The fact that Melanie holds the cure within herself is similar to Ellie in that game, while the journey through a dead London that nature is doing it's damnedest to reclaim also was mightily familiar. Of course the other big comparison is the zombie like infected themselves, who just like the ones in that game have had their minds taken over my fungal spores, a lot of the hungries exhibit fungal growths on their skin, and more advanced ones have stalks erupting out of their faces from which seed pods grow. The infected act in two different ways, the first has them as runners, charging relentlessly, the other style is somehow more sinister as they kind of have a vegetative state where they just stand stock still until disturbed, leads to some great scenes of the group trying to silently work their way through the masses.

On the film side of things I got a sense of Maggie. That was a very low action piece but it had a strong sense of the melancholic, of a world that was rejecting humans and of a uniform bleakness that affected every scene. Here there is again that vibe, especially in the city scenes where buildings are covered in moss and greenery is pouring out of cracks in the tarmac. In terms of pacing this feels like 28 Days Later but with all the scenes reversed. Starting off we have the most action packed sequences to be found, some pretty awesome scenes if I'm honest. As the movie goes on there is less and less action until we have scenes that almost mirror the opening of Jim wandering through London. Just to remind you this is London there are lots of red double decker buses, lots of red phone boxes (do they really even exist over here anymore?), and also quite a few shops that I feel must have been there for product placement deals (such as Lidl, Marks and Spencers, Texaco, Starbucks and Next to name a few of the many named places characters happen to pass by).

Anyone fearing a lack of blood and gore don't need to worry as this has that in spades, plenty of violence, with a lot of it revolving around Melanie which I was surprised to see as I assumed they would leave her out of the rough stuff, but she gets to exhibit her zombie like ways on quite a few occasions, and there is even a gang of feral half zombie children that pop up later. The music is quite sorrowful and has some droning aspects of repetition that work very well for the more quiet moments but I did feel the film lacked some more fast paced urgent music for the more action packed parts.

Despite the arguably best parts of the movie being in the first half hour I did enjoy The Girl with All the Gifts more than I expected. Personally I thought it fell apart a bit in the last fifteen minutes but is cohesive as a whole with great cinematography to it all. Well worth a watch for any zombie fan, this just about warrants an eight out of ten.


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