Yet another Zombie movie…?
I hope you’ve decided to read past the above headline and haven’t tuned out yet. I understand with such a legend it would be hard to want to carry on, but please bear with me, we can work through this together like openminded adults with, let’s be honest here, probably nothing better to do. Even those that reside under rocks, deep in cavernous terrain (10 Cloverfield Lane comes to mind) and those whom have been at sea for most of this century, be it their choice or by maritime ‘accident’, will spit their disdain at the mere mention of yet another zombie flick, this isn’t hard to fathom why.
The undead cinematic genre is overcrowded, a serious understatement to be sure. Ranging from ultra-healthy budget affairs (World War Z and Zombieland, I’ve heard a sequel is in the works) to scraping the barrel low budget cheeses fests too numerous to mention (many helmed by the Asylum studio) though I shall merely for humors sake (Arrgghhh Zombies, etc, on and on and on) On the plus side however, the genre has spawned more than a handful of comedic, splatter-riffic titles that are well worthy of adding to any fans collection. Cockneys Vs. Zombies had me chuckling as did (of course) Brain Dead and naturally I’ll have a fit-to-bursting Inbox if I forgot to mention Shaun of the Dead.
It’s a bloody classic and there’s that! I honestly believe Edgar Wright can do no wrong especially with other cinematic feats like Scott Pilgrim Versus the World, Hot Fuzz (and the soon to hit cinemas everywhere Baby Driver) to his name. But, that’s only my opinion, for what its worth. I’d be kicking myself if I neglected to mention Z Nation, ironically from the Asylum studio, an appreciated light hearted change of pace from The Walking Dead for those that prefer gallows humor to high drama. The genre has even managed to spill into different arenas that many would not have though even possible, take for example Dead Snow (not the first film to introduce Nazis into the realm but the sequel was by far one of the finest) and the mega budget period costume opus Pride and Prejudice… I didn’t mind it so much but from what I’ve heard it heralded quite a number of unamused tirades from the amassed hordes of critics not quite so familiar with the creative license and tongue in rotten cheek realms. Fuck em’ if they can’t take a laugh is a motto I tend to live by. I’ll admit I’m not the one to normally peruse reviews but when I heard the hubbub about the following title, which had somehow managed to escape my radar, comparing it to 28 Days Later regarding substance and quality, I was all ears.
The Girl With all the Gifts (2016)
Director – Colm McCarthy
Writer – Mike Carey
Runtime – 111 minutes
Poison Chef, BFI Film Fund, Altitude Film Entertainment, Saban Films
This film certainly doesn’t open like many in the same genre I’ve sat through. A collective of children are witnessed strapped to chairs within a military installation forced to consume information, its only when Helen Justineau, Gemma Atherton, takes a moment to let her emotions wash over her, and a strong bond develop, that the audience gets to see the veiled malevolent potential of those tightly restrained. The ‘Hungries’ aren’t like normal folk, they’re afflicted by a fungal disease that robs them of their free will transforming them into flesh hungry vessels intent on spreading the fungal’s dominance. This is a genius variation to the better known, more traditional if you will, zombie mythos which is rarely explained to my adequate satisfaction. To be blunt “When hell is full the dead shall walk the earth” doesn’t quite work for me. As the movie progresses as too does the progression of the life stage of the various mycological (Yes, I have a thesaurus) lifeforms adding further depth to the film, in juxtaposition to normal undead cinematic faire where survivors would still be fleeing to the hills for a more hospitable location as their numbers slowly become part of tar-tar based menu.
Melanie (Sennia Nanua), is one of the children. She exhibits higher than normal intelligence, a capacity for curiosity, has commendable manners and illustrates very early on that she may well have loved ones she pines over. Paddy Considine, Sgt. Eddie Parks, runs the installation with an iron hand, often resorting to heavy handed tactics to illustrate the importance of why it must be so, it makes sense as an excellent tension fueled early scene plays out. Their paths regularly cross later to become entwined as the bunker/hanger collective becomes suddenly overrun, the two must learn to co-exist else their companion’s lives be placed into further jeopardy.
Like most (if not the majority) of other undead features a small group in this film must also find a way to take leave from those that would much rather chomp on them than continually chase. It is here that the film shows further ‘chops’. Emotion runs high as a high percentage of the survivors would much rather see a young ‘Hungrie’ (a neo-nate a term explained in the film) be left to not pose a threat to their safety. However, Melanie quickly becomes rather invaluable to both Dr. Caroline Caldwell, played remarkably well by Glenn Close, a scientist hoping to solve the puzzle of the cure through vivisection, and the remaining collective as she’s able to run in and divert while the others are unable to based on their decidedly non-infected biological makeup (and smell).
This is the point where I start to carefully monitor my narrative in order that I don’t offer spoilers (cus’ I don’t roll like that…Holmes) as freely as I use the word ‘and’.
The Girl with all the Gifts moves at an overall fantastic pace. When scenes aren’t dripping with headshots and flesh ripping madness then character development is high on the agenda. Glenn Close shines throughout as a scientist with lofty goal in sight. In one scene, she gets slapped by an infuriated Gemma Atherton to which she instantly replies …” I hope that was cathartic…” This displays top notch writing whereas others may have penned a scuffle this showed restraint and further character development. Another moment, amongst a multitude of others, in the film that peaked my interest was when Melanie was seen longing after a cat poster offering adoptions. Helen asked if she would like one, Melanie’s reply was humorous and blunt, it took me by surprise further exemplifying the intellect of an applaudable script.
Another moment that sticks out for me is Melanie’s sudden realization and understanding that there’s more to her existence than a wheelchair, constant taunting and the four same walls. Sennia Nanua’s acting is remarkable in this scene she’s surrounded by an idyllic landscape all this is captured exquisitely in a euphoric like dream state lens. There is also a Lord of the Flies type scenario in which she excels. A scene that shocks her companions into the sudden awareness that she may well be more than merely an unfortunate child with an infliction.
The physical makeup and effects delivered in TGwatG (an obvious abr, that spells something unintended though vaguely humorous) though not over used are outstanding. The afflicted (it would be so easier to call them zombies much as those ‘Rage’ stricken in 28 Days Later) are made up well, with attention to detail, showing obvious signs of infestation, spores et al, that’s nature (to my understanding anyway) based. Sequences displaying hordes are sometimes unusual regarding their movement (or lack thereof. Already I’ve said too much – dammit!) but are always choreographed with precision. Various scenes are unique and standout from how many other scenes in the same genre play out, the small group of survivors are faced with situations that are unheard of, as the “plant” ages so too does the symbiote relationship with the numerous afflicted to the sheer delight of Dr. Caldwell. Other collectives act differently than a seasoned vet of the genre might expect also keeping the audience on their toes the excitement level high and unpredictability factor at a low.
In conclusion, you can do much worse than TGwatG, or to put it in another way, this was a film that surprised me to the point of immediately heading into the direction of my keyboard. It is, in essence, a film that makes me proud to be British as it is just that damn impressive. Place this atop the pile of a thinking audiences Zombie celluloid mountain although it is (in my opinion) somewhat of a mash up of Attack of the Body Snatchers, Day of the Triffids and 28 Days Later. Intelligent, expertly crafted, well-acted with a definite absence of cheese, what more could you ask for? Seriously. I can’t praise this enough. Make time for this, you can thank me later.
As if in answer the heavens gave us, at last, a movie in the genre worthy of note. Hallelujah!