Breathing new life into the rotting husk of the zombie genre, “The Girl With All The Gifts” bites off far more than the usual undead apocalypse. It’s a horror movie with more than just a culinary focus on braaaaains.
In the near future, British society has collapsed following an outbreak of a fungal infection which turns the infected into flesh-eating ‘Hungries’. Humanity’s only hope is a group of hybrid children who are infected but retain the ability to think and feel. When the base is overrun, a small band of survivors manage to flee with one of the children. The lead scientist, Dr Caldwell (Glenn Close) believes that the child, Melanie (Sennia Nanua), holds the key to a potential vaccine, her teacher Miss Justineau (Gemma Arterton) believes Melanie deserves to be treated like a human being whilst Sergeant Parks (Paddy Considine) only sees a monster who should be killed.
Although the beginning of the story finds itself rooted in zombie movie cliché, Colm McCarthy’s bleakly bright direction quickly moves the film on from hordes of clackety-toothed Hungries to the more curiously claustrophobic environment of abandoned suburban London. Powered by a remarkable performance from Sennia Nanua, the story – adapted from M R Carey’s 2014 novel – pushes the genre in new directions. Twisting the usual zombie movie subtext of fear of the others, the suddenly hostile majority, “The Girl With All The Gifts” can easily be read as a generational war cry, a Millennial howl of outrage at the state of the world bequeathed by the baby boomers.
With a pitch perfect ending which balances hope and melancholy, this is high class horror that gives you plenty of food for thought.