Summer of Horror 2017: The Girl With All the Gifts Last of Us meets 28 Days Later

I’ve been trying to figure out whether The Girl With All the Gifts was “inspired by” the 2013 video game The Last of Us, or whether the profound similarities are simply another result of that uncanny Hollywood coincidence wherein two very similar projects get created around the same time. Girl… was completed in 2016 and officially released in early 2017, but was based on a novel written concurrently with the screenplay in 2014. The timing works out that, intentionally or not, The Last of Us probably is the seed of this movie’s premise.

The marketing doesn’t make it explicitly clear, but this is a zombie movie of the fungal/ophiocordyceps phylum, flesh eating genus, fast running species, but with a twist. Children born of infected mothers get a mutated version of the virus that makes them effectively “normal” people, until the moment they need to feed. So one special specimen of these – the titular Girl – may be the key to the cure. There’s a road trip mission with a small group heading for possible salvation across an urban landscape being reclaimed by nature – this is what I mean with the Last of Us thing. Visually, and in some ways thematically, it’s uncanny.

The other point of comparison is Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later. The zombies (here called Hungries in accordance with “Don’t say the Z word” law) are runners, so the pace of the zombie attacks is generally more hyper than Last of Us or Walking Dead, and the bleak British setting has its own distinct flavor. But really, what sets this apart from the throng of zombie films is the Girl herself, Melanie, played with surprising depth and intelligence by a newcomer. Kind of like how latter day Star Trek included reformed Klingons and Borg in the main crew as allies, having a zombie on your team leads to some fascinating scenarios – and tensions. That’s all I got to say about that.

So, The Girl With All the Gifts absolutely worth the watch for anyone who’s ever enjoyed a zombie movie. It wrings originality from a genre that seemed beaten to death ten years ago. And it must be mentioned that for a movie whose marketing and release strategy screams low-budget, the production values are stellar. How they achieved so many wide shots of a deserted, overgrown Great Britain is beyond me, and they also snagged another good villainous role for Glenn Close. Good stuff.

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