Since I opened my Grinchmas Nights of Frights 2023 with a British end-of-days film in ‘Silent Night,’ I figured I’d close the circle with one too.
For lots of people one of the best parts about Christmas is all the presents. And in ‘The Girl With All the Gifts’ (2016) humanity gets a bestowal beyond what anyone could ever imagine. References to the Greek myth of Pandora’s box releasing evil into the world, as well as hope, is an excellent analogy for this parable about ecological and climate change.
The sporror novel on which the film is based precedes ‘The Last of Us’ and it’s ophiocordyceps by a year, in 2013. Wild to think that was an entire decade ago at this point.
‘The Girl With All the Gifts’ has at its center Melanie (Sennia Nanua), a young girl apparently being held prisoner on a military base along with over a dozen other youngsters. Melanie is curious, courteous even to her captors, a natural storyteller, and also one of The Hungry. This is the in-universe name for the zombie creatures whose brains have been taken over by a fungal infection transmitted by bites. Before Melanie can become the crucial step in a vaccine developed by Dr Caldwell (Glenn Close) the base is overrun and a ragtag crew of stragglers makes their way toward London and The Beacon, another survivor outpost.
But Melanie isn’t the only girl in this story with gifts. Her teacher Miss Justineaux (Gemma Arterton) believes Melanie and her cohort are very much alive and aware, not just the fungus mimicking human behavior as Dr Caldwell believes. And Miss Justineaux has inspired in Melanie the most human of emotions: Unconditional love.
Part action film, part medical drama, and part apocalypse horror, ‘The Girl With All the Gifts’ is a unique and moving take on the zombie subgenre. And the young antiheroine (of color) Melanie is one of the most epic final girls in horror history. Incredibly moving and complex debut performance from Sennia Nanua, which is reason enough by itself to watch this film if you haven’t yet.
✨The Odyssey/5 stars. Highly recommend cultivating empathy every chance you get.✨
Zuzu Zombie’s #Horrorthon365 project is a collection of eclectic genre watchlists with accompanying microreviews to suit the changing seasons. Horrorthon365 was sparked by a gnarly hand injury and carpal tunnel surgery gone awry, hence the flash-style reviews. After a wicked fall at home and brutal elbow fracture that required surgery, posts will be sporadic until I’m healed. In the meantime, browse the entire collection here.