Everybody loves zombie movies; probably the most accessible of all the horror sub-genres, with the emphasis usually on the survival of the living human characters rather than the monsters. Oh, but hang on – is ‘The Girl With All The Gifts’ really a zombie movie? The ‘hungries’ attack and feed on the living, but this is due to what appears to be a bad fungal infection rather than undeadness. So, it’s a zombie film in the same way that ‘28 Days Later’ is.
Once you accept that a film is a zombie film the next question is usually, “how fast do the zombies move?”. Zombies in the ’70s shambled. You could easily outrun them but if you ran into enough of them you were toast. Whereas in the ’80s, zombies had clearly hit the gym, or been looking after themselves in some other mysterious zombie way, as they were suddenly imbued with inexhaustible stamina and the ability to outsprint a cheetah. ‘The Girl With All The Gifts’ does something new to buck the trend for ever-faster zombies. The hungries actually stand still, swaying ever so slightly (amidst overgrown cityscapes – it’s a very pretty apocalypse), until you make a noise or a sudden move. So effective at shredding your nerves, you have to wonder why no one thought of it before.
The movie starts in a military bunker where normal-seeming children (they’re bright, curious and adept at conversation) attend school lessons under startling levels of security. Their guards seem to be terrified of them and keep them strapped to wheelchairs at all times. Even their heads are held fast, which the kids don’t seem to mind too much.
But don’t worry! Just as you’re getting acclimatised to the likelihood of a slow-paced and intelligent eschatological treatise, the movie goes totally, brain-splatteringly turbo! Not that the message is in any way diminished. The zombies aren’t so much ‘end of the world’ as a necessary evolutionary step. Chilling!
Newcomer Sennia Nanua gives a standout performance as the ‘girl’ of the title, alongside a cast featuring Glenn Close, Paddy Considine and Gemma Arterton. It’s as good as the hype, if not better! No need to do a ‘Last Of Us’ movie now.
Have you seen this film? Share your thoughts in the comments below!