In Review

Can The Girl with All the Gifts revive the tired zombie genre?

Matilda meets 28 Days in this tale of a special child zombie who holds the key to saving the world

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Post apocalyptic zombie-drama The Girl with All the Gifts opens in UK cinemas tomorrow and while some are calling it the "best zombie apocalypse in years", others claim it is jumping on a tired undead bandwagon.

Directed by Colm McCarthy (Peaky Blinders, series two) The Girl with All the Gifts was adapted for the screen by Mike Carey, who wrote the original novel of the same name. It stars Gemma Arterton, Glenn Close, Paddy Considine and newcomer Sennia Nanua as The Girl.

Set in a dystopian future where society has broken down, most of humanity has been wiped out by a fungal disease and turned into zombified flesh-eating "hungries". Humanity's only hope is a group of disturbing hybrid children kept under strict controls in a militarised scientific unit.

Teacher Helen Justineau (Arterton) forms an attachment to one exceptional girl named Melanie (Nanua) and the pair escape with the aid of Sergeant Eddie Parks (Considine) to begin a journey of survival.   

"This film is rooted deep in the zombie genre" from the "meaty social commentary" of The Last Of Us, says Helen O'Hara in Empire. But the tense atmosphere has "more in common with the bleak, British sci-fi" of The Day Of The Triffids than the more bombastic US catastrophes.

This is the "best zombie-ish apocalypse in years", says O'Hara. Nanua is a major discovery, she adds, "but it's the dense social commentary and moral dilemmas that will haunt you".

Indeed, the story "taps into a rich history of apocalyptic narratives", says Ryan Lambie at Den of Geek. Beneath the survival horror, however, is not just a story of a battle between an existing species and a new one, but a "battle of wits between one generation and another".

It suffers from some budgetary constraints, he adds, but among a legion of low-budget films with shuffling ghouls, The Girl with All The Gifts stands apart as "a zombie film with real intelligence".

28 Days Later meets Matilda in this "spine-tinglingly eerie" premise, says Richard Trenholm on CNET. Unfortunately, the second act is all too familiar as "a misfit band of soldiers set out across country, their survival threatened equally by bloodthirsty zombies and bickering".

There is "a chilling and subversive final twist" to give another unsettling spin on the genre, Trenholm continues, but it comes "too late to electrify the familiarity of the bulk of the film".

Yes, this seems like a tired attempt to "board the zombie bandwagon", says Jay Weissberg in Variety. The script is "full of the usual banalities disguised as philosophical conversations, but none of it tries for even the remotest hint of metaphor".

Close does attack her scenes with gusto, adds the critic. He also praises newcomer Nanua, who he says "conveys genuine charm, which will be put to better use in another vehicle".

Opens in UK cinemas tomorrow.

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