Right away, I knew The Girl With All The Gifts would be a different kind of zombie flick. For one thing, the cast is topnotch. (I mean, would you expect to see Glenn Close in a horror movie?) And I immediately believed the dystopian world created by novelist Mike Carey and director Colm McCarthy existed. This film wrung serious emotion out of me in the first ten minutes.
And I’m not talking about the (adequate amount) of gore. I’m talking about the girl.
Minor spoilers ahead.
Most of the time Melanie (played brilliantly by Sennia Nanua) seems like an ordinary ten-year-old – but she is part human and part monster. The fungal disease that has turned most of humanity into crazed, flesh-eating “Hungries” has not affected her the same way. She is one of several second-generation children who were born infected (who ate their way out of their mothers’ bodies) and who are being raised in an underground military bunker in England.
Dr. Caldwell (Glenn Close) experiments on them, trying to discover a cure. Sgt. Parks (Paddy Considine) runs the facility and tries to make sure no one gets too close to the “f****** abortions” – especially their teacher, Ms. Justineau (Gemma Arterton). Everyone wears scent-disguising lotion to keep the children calm, and while they are out of their cells and in class they are restrained in wheelchairs.
But Melanie is unique when compared to the others. She has true emotions and can express empathy. Before long, she forms an unbreakable bond with her teacher. Ms. Justineau hates the fact that the children are being experimented on, and when it’s Melanie’s turn, she decides to intervene. But before she can free the girl from the lab, all hell breaks loose as the military base is finally overrun with zombies.
Melanie escapes on her own and she and Ms. Justineau flee the facility with Dr. Caldwell and Sgt. Parks. They struggle to get along together and fight for survival – and Melanie’s special gifts end up helping them all. Dr. Caldwell now thinks Melanie – a zombie with a conscience – is the key to finding a cure, and she is determined to dissect the girl’s brain at the first opportunity.
Most zombie movies don’t engage me from beginning to end the way this “smart” flick managed to do. If you want to see a different take on the genre, you can watch The Girl With All The Gifts on DVD or stream it on Amazon. Out of five goblins, I would give it three and a half.