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Review: The Girl with All the Gifts (2017)

The Girl with All the Gifts (2017)

Directed by: Colm McCarthy

Premise: Set in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, children afflicted with a ravenous taste for human flesh are imprisoned at a military research facility. One particular student (Dominique Tipper) shows promise to finding a cure but the facility staff scatters after a zombie attack. 

What Works: It’s been almost fifty years since the original Night of the Living Dead and the zombie genre hasn’t changed much in that time. The Girl with All the Gifts is an ambitious effort to bring a new angle to the zombie film and it largely succeeds. The picture shows significant influence from George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead and Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later but The Girl with All the Gifts takes the concepts and scenarios of its predecessors and advances them to new and exciting places. As in Romero’s 1985 picture, The Girl with All the Gifts takes place at a military base where scientists and authority figures search for a solution to the zombie plague. In this film, the researchers believe to have found it in a bright and cheerful young girl named Melanie played by Dominique Tipper. Melanie and her fellow children appear normal unless they get hungry, at which point they turn ravenous. The film presents a series of moral and philosophical conundrums; Melanie appears to be a normal and sentient child but the scientific staff believes that dissecting her brain will yield a cure for zombieism. However, what Melanie appears to be and what she actually is may not be the same thing and her allegiance to her uninfected companions is always in question. The Girl with All the Gifts also echoes 28 Days Later; it features zombies who run but also creatures who aren’t really undead. The Girl with All the Gifts questions what we mean by the very term “zombie;” in most films of this sort the term describes humans who have been reduced to hunger and instinct but the child zombies of The Girl with All the Gifts are a bit different. The film presents us with a new conception of zombies and therefore forces us to rethink everything that the zombie film has come to represent. Typically, this genre has made entertainment out of the end of civilization but The Girl with All the Gifts suggests something more complex. While dealing with all of this heady thematic material, The Girl with All the Gifts presents the audience with a compelling apocalypse drama that is sufficiently scary and has a creepy atmosphere. Actress Dominique Tipper is especially effective as Melanie and she manipulates the audience’s sympathies in ways that set us up for the film’s provocative ideas.

What Doesn’t: The zombies of The Girl with All the Gifts feature a digitally enhanced effect that overextends their jaw. The effect looks like something out of a Resident Evil movie and it is not in keeping with the restrained and realistic style of The Girl with All the Gifts. The film is also inconsistent with one of its key conflicts. One of the movie’s central tensions concerns whether Melanie can resist eating her uninfected human companions. It is demonstrated early on that Melanie craves flesh and she has almost no control over her hunger but this urge seems to come and go on a whim. The irony of The Girl with All the Gifts is that the film might run into the most resistance from zombie purists. The point of this movie is to advance the genre and provide a new kind of zombie film. The Girl with All the Gifts does that but the zombie fan base can be fickle. George A. Romero purists may be put off by the way it attempts to change their beloved genre. Among its differences with earlier zombie films, The Girl with All the Gifts does not have the blood and guts of the original Dawn of the Dead. It does something more cerebral which might put off viewers who are looking for the comforts of a familiar zombie adventure.  

DVD extras: Featurette.

Bottom Line: The Girl with All the Gifts may very well be a landmark title in the zombie genre. It builds upon the established ideas and conventions of the zombie film and takes them to new and exciting places.

Episode: #652 (June 18, 2017)