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article imageReview: The Girl With All The Gifts gives a new take on the zombie movie Special

By Tim Sandle     Sep 27, 2016 in Entertainment
Another month, another zombie movie. Yet ‘The Girl With All The Gifts’ is different, offering a new take on the flesh-eating horror. This makes for a compelling film.
The Girl With All The Gifts’ is a sharply intelligent British horror from Scottish director Colm McCarthy. The story focuses on a fungal plague that turns victims into cannibalistic “hungries” (zombies).
The new movie, although it falls within the zombie genre (and that’s an increasingly crowded market) avoids too many of the clichés associated with this style of movie. There are running hoards of zombies, of course (the zombies here are fast, very much in the ‘28 Days Later’ mold rather than the Romero wanderers), but enough new takes to keep the viewer engaged. This comes down to the direction, as well as the screenplay, which was written by M.R. Carey and adapted from his novel of the same name.
There’s a scientific element to the movie, with the use of the very real fungus Ophiocordyceps unilateralis (or zombie fungus), as the source of the infection that turns people into zombies. This fungus has the ability to infect and control ants, through the secretion of metabolites released in the neural system of the host.
The newer aspect to this movie is with the idea of 'generational zombies': what would happen if expectant mothers were bitten and became zombies? Without giving too much away these second generation zombies have a degree of control over their condition and remain sentient, although they still retain the inclination to bite.
Several of these children are held on an army base, in a post-apocalyptic world, as a potential cure, being experimented on by a ruthless scientist played by Glenn Close. The experiments are challenged by a teacher, Helen Justineau, who is played by Gemma Arterton. Arterton’s character believes in the children’s essential humanity.
One of the children, called Melannie (played by newcomer Sennia Nanua), is especially aware of her condition and the movie centers around her and the question whether she can deliver hope to humanity (or something worse). The title of the movie plays on the idea of Pandora’s Box; Melanie has gifts, but what exactly she will give to the surviving human population is uncertain.
After a showdown at the army base, the main part of the movie is a road-trip of sorts as a few survivors, including Close and Arterton’s characters, embark on a perilous trip to London, protecting Melanie, although for different purposes. Scenes with Melanie in a Hannibal Lecter-style mask manage to combine horror and pathos.
Gradually, as the trip reaches the British capital, Melanie’s true nature, which is debated and fought over, is gradually revealed. Stylistically the limited use of CGI and the use of a large cat of extras helps to create a "grounded feel" to the movie and, together with the often bleak landscape, an edge of realism.
‘The Girl With All The Gifts’ is scary, thoughtful and dramatic and should be of interest to horror fans, those who like post-apocalyptic thrillers, and the general viewer who wants to catch a thought-provoking movie.
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