Horror-thon Day #12: The Girl With All The Gifts

Day #12 gives us The Girl With All The Gifts a film adaptation of the book of the same name by author M.R. Carey. I’d read the book previously and really enjoyed it – told from five different points of view, it’s a well thought out, deep read which has a lot to say in a very intelligent way. I was very intrigued to see how it would adapt into film and I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised.

An original retelling of the ever popular horror trope – the zombie apocalypse, Girl With All The Gifts takes a different route, opting out of the undead and instead choosing to go the root of fungal infection, which not only seems more likely, is actually based on real fungal infections. Ophiocordyceps unilateralis infects insects, putting them into a zombie like state whilst it takes over the body, eventually bursting through and taking shoot. Imagine this on a human wide scale and you get the world of Girl With All The Gifts and our mindless hoard for the story, the Hungries.

Speaking of story; The Girl With All The Gifts is the story of Melanie (Sennia Nanua), a hyper intelligent young girl who, along with many others like her, has grown up in a military facility where she is treated with great caution, restrained at all times when she is around others and is educated in a class by a gentle military teacher named Helen Justineau (Gemma Arterton). Melanie is easily the mo st intelligent of her peers and is absolutely enthralled by Miss Justineau, almost seeing her in a saviour like light. But Melanie and her fellows carry the Hungries infection and when the facility is overrun, Melanie, along with Miss Justineau, prickly Sergeant Parks (Paddy Considine), Private Gallagher (Fisayo Akinade) and scientist Dr Caldwell (Glenn Close) escape and begin the search for the next safe base of operations.

The cast in this film is excellent, with particular attention going to Gemma Arterton who, for me, really was the heart of the film. Her tenderness toward the children she educates is heart-breaking and you can really understand the struggle she has at the treatment of Melanie before and after the escape. She gives us a woman who is determined to treat the hungries as normal children, despite what the soldiers and Dr Caldwell say. She’s very much a mother figure to Melanie and tries to act as a moral compass for her companions. Arterton gives a genuine performance and really helped drive the struggle home for me. Young Sennia Nanua who plays Melanie really gives it her all and whilst she can come across as trying way too hard at certain points, as her feature film debut (as the lead no less) she does a good job.

The ever-wonderful Paddy Considine is superb as always, portraying Parks as a man with a hard outer shell and a great sadness inside. Close almost feels too big for this film, giving it a gravitas, which means that every shot she’s in you’re drawn to her. The characters really drive this film forward with every single one of them having an arch.

The landscape of this post-apocalyptic world is lush and green and very beautiful. It’s a world reclaimed by nature (even more so when you look at the nature of the cause of the hungries) and when that world is represented by the Midlands, I’m not going to lie I got the giggles – especially when at one point I recognised a walk I’d done in one scene (I’m not even joking, I turned to Chaz and I was like ‘I’ve been there! I walked that!’ and after checking, realised that I was right). The effects look realistic and the set pieces that have been created for the film are extraordinary (especially some of the fungus trees, they look real in most scenes). We get several practical gore effects which for the most part look great (and as we all know, I love me some gore effects), especially one shot of a broken open torso.

The pacing is great, and the film never drags or feels dull, constantly moving with the characters. The world develops as they do as well – we learn more about it and the behaviour of the fungus and the hungries becomes more apparent. It’s edited well and there aren’t any scenes which don’t feel like they belong. The ending differs a little from that of the novel but I feel it was a good decision which helped to save time whilst reaching the same real conclusion.

If you like your films without too many scares but with strong characters and a little bit of tension, then Girl With All The Gifts could definitely be a film for you. I would genuinely recommend that you read the book as well as watching (if you have the option of doing so) as I feel you gain extra expansion on the world, especially when it comes to Melanie’s character development. I had a good time with it and would definitely recommend it, but apart from a couple of brutal scenes (one involving a baseball bat) it doesn’t really leave a lasting impact.

Thank you for reading and next up we’ll be looking at 10 Cloverfield Lane.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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