The Girl With All the Gifts takes a tender turn with zombies



By Steve Newton

If you’re not a fan of flesh-eater flicks by now, you surely won’t be after seeing The Girl With All the Gifts.

Following one of those pesky zombie holocausts, a group of undead/human-hybrid kids is kept in a grungy military prison/school in rural England, where they’re fed bowls of chubby mealworms and rolled to their daily class in wheelchairs to which they’re bound at ankles, wrists, and forehead. “Come on, you friggin’ abortions, let’s go!” orders a heavily armed soldier, one of many—including the hard-ass Sgt. Parks (Paddy Considine)—who keep machine guns trained on them at all times.

The most gifted of the children is 10-year-old Melanie (charming newcomer Sennia Nanua), whose sensitivity and imagination draw the affection of kindly teacher Helen Justineau (Gemma Arterton), as well as the attention of icy biologist Dr. Caldwell (Glenn Close with a buzz cut), who singles her out for experimentation regarding the “mutated fungal disease” that caused all the trouble in the first place.

Things kick briefly into intense 28 Days Later–style action when the facility gets overrun by hordes of flesh-eating “hungries”, and the three female leads escape in an army truck along with Parks and a couple of destined-to-be-zombie-chow grunts. Around this time the reasoning behind the precautionary measures used with the youngsters comes to light, as Melanie quickly morphs from a sweetie-pie into a lightning-fast neck-chomper of the highest order.

Things get more ridiculous when the group—with Melanie now sporting a see-through mask to discourage any Lecter-style snacking—sneaks quietly through an immense horde of zonked-out zombies in a decimated London. “Now our mission statement is to keep ourselves off the fucking menu!” Parks instructs Caldwell when her stated research goals threaten their immediate survival.

The Girl With All the Gifts strives to bring some genuine emotion and tenderness to the zombie genre, but it keeps sabotaging itself with overly saccharine scenes and goofy one-liners. “Don’t play with anybody that looks dead,” quips Sgt. Parks when Melanie sets off on an unlikely mission to save everyone’s skin. And by the time she takes on a gaggle of snarling, infected kids in a preposterous schoolyard-type confrontation, you’ll have had quite enough of all those so-called gifts.

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