Welcome witches and warlocks,
Today I will be reviewing the horror feature THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS by director Colm McCarthy. To best describe the story, I will turn to a slightly modified IMDB plot summary:
“A small group of people living in a dystopian future embark on a journey of survival with a special young girl named Melanie.”
Right off the bat, allow me to talk about this wonderfully executed story which is one of the more interesting, recent takes on this genre. While some will say that the general idea resembles the videogame “The Last of Us” (2013), the director weaves in some solid character moments and mythological themes that help this to stand apart. I was especially intrigued by the use of mythology as the ending ties perfectly into the legend of Pandora without ever over explaining to the audience the magic trick they just pulled off.
Luckily, all the character work is backed up by some great performances from the mostly well-known cast. While Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine, and Glenn Close bring their A-game to the script, it is newcomer Sennia Nanua who is sure to blow audiences away. I will grant that some of her impact is due to the fact that she is a fresh face, but as the film progresses she keeps layering in the character nuance in ways that most young actors rarely accomplish. It was impressive to see her interact with the already impressive cast as she proved that she could hold her own.
Our opening is concerned with Ms. Nanua’s character, Melanie, and her life in a strange sort of captivity. We see this facility through Melanie’s eyes as she goes through the routines set forth for her and the other, special children. It was an effective start as we are left to wonder what exactly has happened that has led to these children being quarantined, but we have no more answers than our protagonist. When the threat is finally revealed, we switch from the more slow burn moments to a high octane acting/thriller without ever sacrificing the characters.
It is in some of these more action orientated moments that there are occasional lapses in zombie rules that they have already set up within this picture. Most of these issues come down to the fact that the protagonists are still using semi-automatic weapons, while also claiming that they need to be quiet lest they attract more of the reanimated. For the most part this can be overlooked, but one time in particular the undead seemed to not notice their presence even while they were shooting their guns right in close proximity.
Other lapses in logic are actually written into the characters in a way that makes their mistakes entirely forgivable. Even though they start off on a military base, the men in uniforms are not career combatants, but instead just regular people who have received some weapons training. This makes their errors in judgement or missed shots easy to write off as being a byproduct of their lack of experience. It also adds a sad note to their stories as each of them had to give up their peaceful lives in an effort to survive.
Once they move on from the base, they seem to check off some of the more typical zombie movie locations such as a mall, the countryside, a hospital, and a deserted city. This last one is the most impressive as they managed to make some of the busier areas of London look entirely deserted. The sight of the city streets and corpses overgrown with plants is chilling, even before we meet the group of changed children roaming these boroughs.
Before I go, I do feel it worth mentioning that this has one heck of a score. While I might not be humming the tunes a day later, I respected the moody ambience they were able to create. By the end I was impressed with how different the music sounded from other recent horror features and hope more films will try to create equally interesting background music.
All in all, this is a well put together zombie picture with more heart and brains than most. Newcomer Senni Nanua confidently holds her own alongside the rest of the cast; creating characters that are absolutely worth our time. Fans of THE OMEGA MAN (1971) and 28 DAYS LATER (2002) will definitely find a lot to love in this stellar feature.
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