The Girl with All the Gifts is a good movie, but the literary title isn’t doing it any favors. As I learned in the film, Pandora was the girl with all the gifts, so the character in the film is opening Pandora’s Box. Really, you could call the movie Zombie Kids and a lot more people would know what it’s about and get the highbrow allusions later.
This is a fast-running zombie outbreak due to fungal infection rather than undead. They call them hungries. Helen Justineau (Gemma Arterton) teaches a class of infected children at a British military base. When a horde of hungries pushes through the fence of the base, Helen goes on the run with Dr. Caldwell (Glenn Close) and Melanie (Sennia Nanua), an infected girl whom Caldwell believes can help her make a vaccine.
The Girl With All the Gifts does a good job building up the world of this outbreak. First, see the military procedure on the base. Then we see the horde at the fence and the research Caldwell is doing. Then we’re off into the infected world. The film doles out information and procedure without exposition. We only hear how Blocking Gel works long after we’ve seen it in use. The only big exposition comes about 50 minutes in when Caldwell explains why newborns had partial immunity. It’s still a pretty chilling story even if it stops the momentum to explain stuff.
The teeth chomping and unique growl give the hungries a slightly different personality from other zombies. There’s real suspense when Melanie starts getting bitey and Helen doesn’t notice. There are some solid set pieces as the survivors navigate hordes of hungries. The roles shift back and forth. The survivors need Melanie, and she protects them in the wild. Then she knees she’s getting bitey again and needs to go away from them.
The story forces characters into the confrontations you want dramatically, although there are no big surprises. The film has the balls to make tough dramatic choices that are more interesting than the more comfortable ones. It’s effective, satisfying and earned, even that one total “don’t go in there” moment.
By the way, Glenn Close can fight some zombies. She is badass. The only way she could’ve been more badass is if she’d screamed, “I’ve had it with these motherfuckin’ girls with these motherfuckin’ gifts!”
Still, if this movie comes out a few months from now under the title Zombie Kids, I won’t mind. That’s really what it’s about, and it’ll save critics a lot of time when they’re writing about it. Even Hungries could be a more direct way to introduce the lingo into the mainstream, but really it’s Zombie Kids.