The Girl with All the Gifts [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Lions Gate Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Robert Segedy (22nd April 2017).
The Film

As a die hard monster film fan, it was with a mixed sense of anticipation that I opened up this disc; I was both pleased that it was a horror film, but I heaved a breathe of sorrow when I saw that unfortunately it was a horror film featuring zombies. I hate to say it, but the market has been over saturated with products featuring zombies: on television, we have "The Walking Dead" (2010-Present), in comics, we have a variety of zombie offerings, and frankly, I am tired of it all. The last great film that I saw that featured zombies in a memorable way was "Train to Busan" (2016), which was exciting and different. Now where was I; oh yes, the over reliance of zombies in today's market. I have pondered what is the real reason behind the zombie's popularity now? Is it because this is a reflection of our uneasiness with the political climate or is there more to it than just that? They have left their humble jungle roots long behind, evolving from the living dead that performed slave labor under the guidance of creepy plantation owners in such films as "White Zombie" (1932), and "I Walked with a Zombie" (1943), to 1964’s "The Last Man on Earth" with Vincent Price, to George Romero’s classic "Night of the Living Dead" (1968), where the slow moving mobs of the recently dead inexplicably rise from their graves to threaten the lives of several people grouped together in an abandoned Pennsylvania cabin , and yet again, they evolved in Danny Boyle’s "28 Days Later..." (2002), into swift raging killers spawned by an virus in the UK, that has decimated London.

Why is it that Horror continues to bring us back to the revulsion of seeing our fellow man, either living or dead, acting as an unthinking dedicated killing force? Is the terror in the familiarity or is it actually in the savage appetite’s that these undead usually have for us? Why is it that the face of horror belongs to our friendly next door neighbor? Why zombies as a cultural touchstone now, and not werewolves or ghouls? What does all this cannibalism say about us as a culture, as a nation? Does society need new monsters to fear perhaps?

The zombie has been around for a long time. We need to go back to 1932 for the post code film, "White Zombie", featuring Bela Lugosi as Murder Legendre, a plantation owner that has a hypnotic power over the dead and employees them on his jungle plantation as slave labor in Hati. Talk about working stiffs! These zombies are eerily silent and are hauntingly menacing as they carry out Murder's dirty work. This set the template for Hollywood for a while: zombies were silent and mysterious, the recently deceased come back to do farm labor and they moved slowly and stiffly. We ,of course, can trace this type of character back to Cesare the somnambulist in Robert Wiene's German expressionistic horror film, "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" (1920). It wasn't until 1936 that the Halperin Brothers brought back the concept in the unremarkable film, Revolt of the Zombies, including close ups of Lugosi's eyes from "White Zombie", even though he received no on screen credit for this. By the 1940's Hollywood was using the zombie gimmick for humorous effect in such efforts as Bob Hope's "The Ghost Breakers" (1940) and Jean Yarbrough's excellent "King of the Zombies" (1941) featuring a hysterical appearance by Mantan Moreland. In 1943 Jacques Tourneur, came on set to make the atmospheric "I Walked with a Zombie" for RKO and restored some of the lost credibility with horror fans. Skipping ahead to 1966 Hammer Studios released "The Plague of the Zombies" which was an atmospheric horror film directed by John Gilling, featuring undead miners. Then in 1968 George Romero shocked us all with his tale of the dead rising from the grave and they were more than creepy; they were hungry. Human flesh is what they craved and soon they were munching happily on the few dopes that weren’t quick or clever enough to escape the moaning hoardes. Sequels immediately followed and the drive-in’s were flooded with product: "Tombs of the Blind Dead" (1972), "Horror Express" (1972), "Curse of the Living Dead" (1974), "Let Sleeping Corpses Lie" (1988), and many more. Which brings us to the present where we have "The Girl with All The Gifts" on the docket for examination.

The film opens media res and we are not fully informed until a good ten or fifteen minutes into the mix before we are given a direct answer to what is really happening. We see a young girl kept in a shabby cell; she is all alone, but we can hear a group of people coming down the hall, slamming on the doors, and some type of ringing claxon. Quickly the girl climbs into a wheelchair and adjusts the restraints on her legs and arms; two soldiers enter and she is ultra- polite, addressing both by name. Why she is being held captive is not explained; this is just the way things are. Next she is wheeled into a large room with other identical children and a teacher enters and start quizzing them on the periodic tables. The camera focuses on our protagonist, Melanie (Sennia Nanuae); clearly she is very intelligent and articulate, but there is still no explanation of why the children are being treated like prisoners. A different teacher arrives, a Miss Justineau (Gemma Arterton) and she takes over from the previous one; this one is nicer, more responsive to the children, she speaks to them with a different attitude. It is established that there is an obvious bond between teacher and student; Melanie is attentive, polite and starved for her teacher’s attention, and Miss Justineau is moved by the child’s plight. After the teacher reads the students a Greek myth about Pandora and her box of misery, the teacher instructs the students to write their own story; it is only Melanie that has enough intelligence to construct a story that mirrors what she is feeling for her teacher. Miss Justineau is touched and lightly pats Melanie on the head, however the doors fly open and in enters a brash army Sergeant Parks (Paddy Considine), who rails on about Miss Justineau’s lack of caution. Parks incites the children to exhibit their true nature by offering an unprotected arm to one who responds with jaw clicking intensity and unabated hunger. Now we understand why the children are being treated like an unruly pack of hungry dogs’; it seems they literally are some type of zombie cannibals referred to as “hungries”, but the children are a second generation of zombies, born with intellect and the ability to speak. Later in the film, uber mad scientist Dr. Caroline Caldwell (Glenn Close) is revealed to be experimenting on these children in search of a vaccine (shades of Dr. Josef Mengele!) and she tells Melanie the story of her birth; apparently these children were discovered in various hospitals where they hungrily ate their way out of the womb. Melanie is an exceptional second generation zombie and she is able to contain herself from transforming into a rabid cannibal, but she does need to eat and she is growing weaker in her resistance. To shorten the plot development some, director Colm McCarthy has a group of soldiers escape the encampment after the surrounding fences are broken through by the “hungries” and they take along Miss Justineau and her star pupil, Melanie. Dr. Caldwell is down with that plan because she has future plans that involve Melanie’s brain and spinal column. Those mad scientist types just cannot relax when they have come up with a plan that involves illicit surgery on an unwilling donor. Sure, it is all about a cure for Mankind or so they say.

As the film moves along to its tricky conclusion, we are basically down to four characters: Miss Justineau, Sergeant Parks, Dr. Caldwell, and Melanie. Slowly the three adults are forced to treat Melanie as an equal, but even better, as a emotional human being. There are scenes where Melanie goes out among the infected dead, who react violently to the smell of human skin; Melanie is a hybrid of sorts though: she has a foot in both worlds, she is both a “hungry” killer and still a small child. As a viewer, we are compromised to cheer for Melanie even though she is a psuedo-zombie, but we don’t really want her to fall into the evil clutches of Dr. Caldwell either. The true horror reveals itself in the scenes with the “hungries” standing around silently, ever patiently waiting for someone to stumble into their trap. Mankind has been reduced to mindless fungus covered zombies that silently wait for something to eat. In a harrowing scene, one of Parks men foolishly goes off on his own, exploring the decaying city of London where he encounters a group of second generation zombie children, who are more feral than anything else, and they essentially devour him. Melanie though rises to the occasion and channeling her inner”hungry”, she manages to open a can of whoop ass on the leader of the group, and essentially takes over the tribe. By this point the film is almost over, but where do we go from here? After Melanie sets fire to the stalk covered BP Tower and releases the seeds into the atmosphere, Sergeant Parks lays slowly dying, but Melanie shoots him to release him from impending zombiedom. Dr. Caldwell is dying from blood poisoning, but she at last admits that Melanie is an authentic child, not simply mimicking human behavior, but she foolishly leaves the protection of the lab and is dispatched by a gang of semi-zombie children. This leaves us with the remaining two characters left: Melanie and Miss Justineau. What will they do? The answer may surprise you, but I am not going to reveal the ending because I felt it was the best part of the film. Perhaps there is hope for Mankind, no matter what form it takes, as long as there is someone who understands and encourages hopes and dreams. If you are like me and feel tired of the same hoary clichés when it comes to zombie films, "The Girl with All the Gifts" may be the ticket for you.

Video

Presented in 2.00:1 widescreen, mastered in HD 1080p 24/fps using AVC MPEG-4 compression. The film has excellent use of authentic locations, limited CGI effects, and excellent color scheme with thoughtful use of earth tones and shades. Excellent cinematography and effective presentation of a post apocalypse world where there are few survivors. Some of the outdoor scenes at the camp are a bit soft but hardly distracting.

Audio

English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, it's a crisp 5.1 sound with an haunting use of a haunting soundtrack, dialogue is clear and centered, the sound of the restraints as they are put upon Melody are very effective and the overall sound field design is excellent. Cristobal Tapia de Veer’s soundtrack is extremely effective and really sets the mood that we are in an isolated landscape. Subtitles are included in English for the hearing impaired and Spanish.

Extras

A single extra is included by way of a featurette, there is also a collection of bonus trailers, a second disc with a DVD copy as well as a digital copy version of the film.

DISC ONE: BLU-RAY

"Unlock the Secret World of The Girl with All the Gifts" featurette running for 20 minutes 44 seconds is a behind-the-scenes look featuring interviews with the cast, the screenwriter, director, and the producers. The various cast members are shown on the set, there is a brief segment regarding the make up used and how the script was developed from the novel. Mildly entertaining.

Bonus trailers are included for:

- "Rob Zombie’s 31"
- "Heist"
- "Cell"
- "Come and Find Me"
- "Maggie"

DISC TWO: DVD

This is a DVD copy version of the film.

Also included in the case is a digital copy version of the film, redeemed via a download code.

Packaging

Slip-case Edition with original pressing.

Overall

This is a dystopian world of the future after the effects of a plague has left most of the population turned into zombie like creatures. A seemingly normal girl holds the secret to a cure but she must surrender her life in order to save the rest of mankind.

The Film: B+ Video: A Audio: A Extras: C- Overall: B-

 


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