Zombie movies, games, and shows are a fucking dime a dozen at this point. It seems like every other week there is some form of entertainment that wants give us another post apocalyptic look at the undead. Some are great like Naughty Dog’s masterpiece of video game, ‘The Last of Us’, but most are just stupid excuses for gore. They think they are unique in some way. Yet, mostly they are just another form of mindless entertainment.
The most accomplished example of this genre has to be ‘The Walking Dead’. It’s certainly the longest running. The reason for this is clear to me. I was a huge fan of ‘The Walking Dead’ for over 5 years because it managed to place its characters ahead of all else. It took the post apocalyptic world of the undead and used it as a back drop to show us as love of humanity in its most desperate state. Sadly, it lost its way a while back, but other good stories can still learn from what it did well for a while.
The best example I’ve seen since I stopped watching that show is ‘The Girl with the Gifts’. A film that has plenty of blood and guts, but also has quite a bit on its mind. It’s a story that chooses to think scientifically about the nature of an infection that would cause these zombies. And a story that is most interested in the characters and less with the explicit gore some become so enamored with.
The basic plot line is elusive in the opening. All you know is that there are some kids that are being hauled to a classroom in wheelchairs and they are tied to these chairs for some reason. After about ten minutes of introduction to the environment and the characters, we discover that these kids are actually zombies. They are intelligent and would seem normal in first glance, but if they smell you then you are screwed. They begin convulsing and its game over.
The zombie child that seems most special is a girl named Melanie (Sennia Nanua). She is clearly clever and intuitive from moment one. Which is why her teacher, Helen (Gemma Arterton), seems to care for her so much. It’s also why the camps head scientist, Dr. Caldwell (Glenn Close), thinks she might be the key to preventing mutation. The last important character is a soldier named Sgt. Parks (Paddy Considine). He represents the fear that most humans associate with the zombie children and his transformation around Melanie is a key component in this movies slow build.
After an incident leaves most of the people in the camp dead, these characters set out to discover a new future. Along the way, they find pods that could potentially make the virus airborne, but more importantly they discover more about themselves and Melanie. Luckily, the writing and these characters are good enough that you will care about what happens. The situations they face are not new to the genre, but they feel organic. There are cliches, but they feel sincere enough to pull you in. And it helps that the story of this child is quite unique.
You couple this with an interesting soundtrack, along with some good use of sound, and you get a movie well worth your time. It’s not unforgettable, but it is memorable. There are elements to chew on after the film is over and characters to care about after. So, while it’s not technical masterful, it is proficient. While it’s not great writing, it’s interesting enough to keep your interest. Sometimes that’s good enough.