Pray she doesn’t give you any

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Reviews -

Mike Carey’s un­usual mod­ern zom­bie novel hits the big screen.


Just when you thought you’d seen ev­ery pos­si­ble spin on the zom­bie movie, along comes some­one with a star­tling new idea. The Girl With All The Gifts might be a zom­bie movie, but it’s also a road movie, an eco-hor­ror, and a bold po­lit­i­cal state­ment. And it’s great at be­ing all of those things.

Roughly a decade af­ter the out­break of a mys­te­ri­ous virus that turns peo­ple into mind­less slaver­ing can­ni­bals, the UK’s few sur­vivors are holed up in heav­ily guarded mil­i­tary camps. In one of them, Base Ho­tel Echo, teacher He­len Justineau (Gemma Arter­ton) has formed an un­usual bond with one of her most gifted stu­dents, Me­lanie (Sen­nia Nanua). Un­for­tu­nately, their re­la­tion­ship is likely to be short-lived, be­cause Me­lanie’s got an ap­point­ment with the op­er­at­ing ta­ble of the camp’s scari­est sci­en­tist, Dr Cald­well (Glenn Close).

Luck­ily (or not), be­fore the scalpels come out, the base is over­run by “Hun­gries”, forc­ing Justineau, Cald­well and Me­lanie to flee in the back of a truck. Thus begins a jour­ney not just across Lon­don but also across prej­u­dices, as Justineau and co strug­gle to make sense of what’s left of the world, and start to ques­tion what “sur­viv­ing” even means.

Sounds a bit thinky? It’s okay. Ev­ery time the on­to­log­i­cal ar­gu­ments threaten to get too in­tense, direc­tor Colm McCarthy chucks in a chase scene – and there’s more than one mo­ment where you’ll find your­self hold­ing your breath as char­ac­ters at­tempt to make their way through Hun­gry-in­fested hell­holes. While it’s no sur­prise that the likes of Paddy Con­si­dine and Glenn Close turn in nu­anced per­for­mances, the film’s real star is 12-year-old Sen­nia Nanua; she’s equal parts bright, en­dear­ing, and ter­ri­fy­ing.

There are a few mi­nor flaws to pick at. Some of the plot con­trivances strain credulity, while fans of screen­writer Mike Carey’s orig­i­nal novel will no­tice a

Mo­ments where you’ll be hold­ing your breath

cou­ple of beats are miss­ing. It’s also tough to be­lieve any­one could call the in­fected “Hun­gries” with a straight face when the term “Zom­bies” is avail­able (and uni­ver­sally un­der­stood!). But this is all pretty easy to for­give, es­pe­cially be­cause the list of the things the film gets right – its in­tel­li­gent world-building, its won­der­fully eerie sound­track, its sub­tly hor­ri­fy­ing crea­ture ef­fects, and its bril­liantly re­alised char­ac­ters – is so much longer than the list of things it fum­bles.

The evoca­tive ti­tle is a riff on Greek mythol­ogy, specif­i­cally the story of Pan­dora’s box. Ex­actly how that ap­plies to Me­lanie doesn’t be­come clear un­til the very end, but when it does, it’ll give you goose­bumps. You may never look at a zom­bie in the same way again... Sarah Dobbs

Most of the scenes set in post-apoc­a­lyp­tic Lon­don were ac­tu­ally shot in Shirley, in the West Mid­lands.

The strik­ing tube work­ers’ picket line was a bit rub­bish.

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