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Film review: The Girl with all the Gifts – inventive British thriller keeps the zombie trend alive

Inventive British film stars Sennia Nanua in a breakout performance as a young hybrid zombie/human girl who must come to terms with her dark powers

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 February, 2017, 5:32pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 March, 2017, 1:02pm

3.5/5 stars

Recent successes such as Train to Busan and I Am a Hero have proved that there is still life in the decaying corpse of the zombie genre beyond The Walking Dead. This trend continues in Colm McCarthy’s inventive British thriller The Girl with all the Gifts.

Written by M.R. Carey in tandem with his novel, the film depicts a dystopia overrun by flesh-eating “hungries”, humans infected by mysterious intergalactic spores. At a remote military base, Dr Caldwell (Glenn Close) experiments on a group of captive children, born of infected mothers, but who display both human and zombie characteristics.

When the base is attacked, Caldwell manages to escape, together with Sergeant Parks (Paddy Considine), Melanie (Sennia Nanua) – arguably the most gifted of the students – and her teacher, Helen Justineau (Gemma Arterton). Plagued by in-fighting and distrust, the group scours the countryside for safety and solutions, while Carey and McCarthy riff creatively on this familiar scenario.

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Melanie finds herself torn between two surrogate mothers – the protective Helen and Caldwell, who is determined to carve her up in search of a cure. As Melanie grows increasingly aware of the dark powers she wields, the film becomes her rite of passage, making frequent reference to the Greek myth of Pandora, as she decides how best to use her “gifts”.

Enveloped by Cristobal Tapia de Veer’s eerie score and showcasing a breakout performance from young Nanua, The Girl with all the Gifts resists the temptation to become a young adult reimagining of 28 Days Later, instead emerging as an effectively atmospheric and often grisly horror film.

The Girl with all the Gifts opens on March 2

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