Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Movie Review - The Girl with all the Gifts

by Beth

I had been keeping an I on this movie since I first heard about it last year. I had no idea it was a book until I googled it tonight. I consider this quite a lapse on my part since I'm usually up on my zombie books. I didn't even realize it had been released since I'm not into "art house" theaters. If it ever came to the big screen in Atlanta I sure never heard about it. But when I saw it pop up on-demand I watched it immediately. I've made no apologies for my zombie exhaustion. I blame The Walking Dead for becoming so popular that it spawned countless terrible zombie movies. This looked like it would be something different though so I went for it despite the $6 price tag for an on-demand movie. It was certainly a different zombie movie, and very interesting, but I don't know that it was enough to revive a failing genre. This is a spoiler filled review though so consider this fair warning.

From the start it's clear that this isn't your average zombie movie. First and foremost they call them "hungries", but that isn't the only thing that sets it apart. We begin in some sort of military base with kids strapped to wheelchairs being rolled along to a class of some sort (but once we find out they're zombies you have to wonder while they bother with school). The main character, Melanie, is immediately recognizable as such due to her annoying sweetness. It looks like a creepy dystopia kind of thing until a soldier attracts the attention of one of the kids who tries to break out of his restraints to take a bite out of the soldier. The young-uns are all infected with something that leaves them mostly lucid, until some fresh meat gets too close that is. But while the kids seem to be able to control themselves the same can't be said for the full grown zombies who inevitably invade the military compound. They're basically the same fast zombies that we've been seeing since Zak Snyder's Dawn of the Dead remake. It seems to be for no other reason than to add action to a relatively slow movie.

Apart from the zombie-kid Melanie the rest of the cast is fairly predictable, and so are parts of the story. Once stuck outside the relative safety of the compound a mismatched group finds themselves on the run from hordes of "been there, done that" zombies. A brutish soldier who only sees Melanie as a monster, a cold scientist who only cares about saving the remaining humans, and a teacher who thinks Melanie might be more than others think round out the main cast. It's easy to see how the teacher becomes attached to the young zombie though. When she isn't tearing someone's throat out Melanie is an intelligent and polite little flesh-eating demon, but then I also sympathize with the soldier for wanting to put a bullet in her head to stop her incessant questions. The survivors have to try and make their way to either the next outpost, or if possible, the mysterious "beacon" (which we can only assume is a better stronghold than the one they left). The doctor wants to cut Melanie up to create a vaccine, the teacher wants to save Melanie, and the soldier just wants to shoot zombies. Can't say that I blame him though; I want to shoot zombies all the time, and can only do it on video games.

The story is fairly interesting, but the characters often act in the predictable zombie movie manner. While making their way through a minefield of dormant "hungries" you just know that someone is going to fuck up, and alert them to the group's presence by moving too quickly or making too much noise. There are plenty of parts where you know exactly what's about to happen; we've seen so much of this before that I wasn't surprised to find myself yelling "dumbass" at a character for doing something that would get them killed. They do, however, do lots of things in a way that is different than the cookie cutter norm that we've come to expect. But only 45 minutes in do we finally find out why this girl, and the rest of the kids in her "class" are different. They were born from mothers who were infected while they were pregnant. Glenn Close says that all these infections must have happened at the same time for these kids to all be the same age, but what kind of lamaze class carnage happened, and why didn't I get to see it? I find it hard to believe that hundreds of women were infected at the same time without most of them getting ripped to shreds. Instead, we get mothers who were just infected enough to pass the virus on without the kids becoming inhuman monsters. I know, because zombie movie.

It was fun watching Melanie go out as the group's recon (since the zombies dont eat their own) and explore a world she's never seen before, but then brutally eat stray cats or uses a lonely dog as zombie bait. But I was quickly thrown from that to wondering why Glenn Close calls the virus a fungus. If it's a fungus wouldn't it spread differently than by bites from the infected? They do try to make it more fungus-y later by showing the whatever the hell this thing is evolving into it's next stage with pods. In the world of sci-fi and/or horror pods are never good. When Glenn Close tells Melanie that the pods will make the fungus airborne it's pretty obvious that something will make that very thing happen. The ending did take me by surprise though. While Melanie spends the movie trying to save her human friends she ends up releasing the pod spores into the atmosphere - totally on purppse too. She tells the dying soldier (who she thought she had safely sealed in a mobile lab) that it's not their world anymore, but if the zombies need flesh to survive then an infected world seems like it would be a bad thing for the zombies. What do they eat when every living thing on the planet is dead? So Melanie wipes out all life on the planet, but also "saves" her teacher friend who is then forced to live inside the sealed military truck they found earlier. The teacher is forced to teach the semi-tame, and slightly more feral children of this new world knowing that she's going to die behind glass or be eaten if she refuses. Yep, that's about as bleak an ending as I can hope for in this type of movie.

While I liked a lot it did have flaws. Show me something I can't find a flaw with, and I'll never write again. The action veered wildly from talking, talking, and more talking to hardcore zombie action. I wish it didn't take so long to find out what was happening, but maybe it's better as a book. I could have done without the Kid A/Amnesiac era Radiohead soundtrack, but I suppose that's not too big a deal. Overall, I really enjoyed a new take on the tired zombie tale. It's not perfect, but it might at least make you think while you enjoy some zombies again.

Beth got her start writing for a site called Movie Criticism for the Retarded (which has been reborn as dorkdroppings.com. Check it out sometime), but was pulled out of an early retirement to write for Needless Things. When she isn't writing she plays video games and watches bad horror movies while eagerly awaiting the zombie apocalypse. She may try to save her husband and/or their cats, but luckily hasn't had to make those tough decisions yet. Follow beth0rama on Instagram or on Twitter @NeedlessBeth where she doesn't post often enough to be annoying, but updates way more than Google+

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