During the early 2010s, the zombie craze was huge. While zombies had been a part of entertainment all the way back from the 1950s (mainly through George Romero), as soon as The Walking Dead came out, along with things such as Call Of Duty‘s Zombie mode and others, the zombie craze blew up. Now, a few years after the buzz has died, a new zombie film.
The Girl With All The Gifts stars Sennia Nanua, Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine and Glenn Close and is directed by Colm McCarthy. Set in the near future after a zombie outbreak, a young girl called Melanie (Nanua) finds out she is immune to their infections.
Most zombie films deal with the immediate aftermath of the outbreak. Even films such as 28 Days Later, a corner stone of the new zombie films, are set during the initial breakout of whatever creates the monsters. Here, it is a few years after the disease first struck, meaning there has been some developments. Bases are set up that house the half-breed human/zombies, anti-zombie drugs are rationed and the mutation is ever evolving in the towns and cities, now overgrown with fauna and flora. It’s a set-up that apart from Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, I can’t think of many films that have explored it, but is brought to life wonderfully through the film. It’s got hints of John Wnydham’s Day Of The Triffids, with the abandoned cities and oppresive atmosphere, just this time with zombies instead of plants.
The cast are good in their respective roles. Paddy Considine and Glenn Close, who are both part of the military detail that is working towards a cure, have clear arcs and motives. None of them are reduced to silly stereotypes or have odd reveals, they react like real characters, with emotion and thoughts, rather than what the script needs them to do. Gemma Arterton is alright as teacher Helen, but nothing really standout. The best though is young Sennia Nanua as Melanie, the titular character, who has the bloodlust of a zombie but can regulate it and appear like a human girl. Through the film she moves from eager youngster, reading books and writing stories, before having to grow up and become a vital member of the survivors. Her full range of emotions and states, including when she goes into full-on zombie mode are incredibly good for an actress as young and untested as her (this is her second production, and first feature film).
The film has a relatively low budget (£4 million), but it works to the films favour. The stripped-back effect of the films creates a better world. This isn’t a big-budget Hollywood zombie film like World War Z or even a American-style satire like Dawn of The Dead. It feels more like a real-world event rather than a staged film, without zombies running left and right. The zombies are to be feared rather than fought. The biggest set-pieces hardly involve fighting the monsters but rather tip-toeing past them and hoping that they don’t sniff you out.
There is only one real action scene, just after the first half an hour. At the beginning, I wasn’t really sure where the film was going, it’s slow paced and focussing more on characters than giving us a creature feature. But once we are lead out of the underground facility where the first act is confined to, out into the open, we get a glorious raging battle between soldiers and zombies. The entire scene is done in one long take, spanning a few minutes and involving well over a hundred extras. The work and effort to create it must have been astounding, and is worthy of praise.
In the end, The Girl With All The Gifts is an interesting addition to the zombie canon. For those waiting on a The Last of Us film to come out, go watch The Girl With All The Gifts while you can. It’s the closest you’ll come to getting it.
Score: 7/10 A refreshing blend of horror and science-fiction.