The Girl with All the Gifts (2016) – Film Review

‘The Girl with All the Gifts’ is based on the novel of the same name by M. R. Carey, another zombie story, this time attempting to focus more on young children and how they would cope with an infection wiping out all of humanity. As well as leaning more towards the ‘fungus’ side of infections when it comes to some of the film’s visuals and ideas, and while I appreciate the attempt to turn this narrative into a film. I don’t think it was incredibly successful in the long-run.

In a dystopian future where humanity has been ravaged by a mysterious fungal disease, humanity’s only hope is a small group of hybrid children who crave human flesh while still retaining the ability to think and feel. But when their base is later attacked, a teacher, a scientist and a group of soldiers must embark on a journey of survival with a special young girl named: ‘Melanie’.

Directed by Colm McCarthy, the idea of a group of characters going on a dangerous journey is a pretty standard outline for an apocalyptic story, sadly however, ‘The Girl with All the Gifts’ doesn’t manage to improve much on this structure. As many of the decisions throughout the film were pretty strange, to say the least, as the film flips back and forward between horror and drama rapidly within some scenes (sometimes even implementing comedy as well). As a result of this, the film’s tone is very inconsistent, and can really take the viewer out of the story at points. Even the name given to the zombie-like creatures within the film: ‘The Hungries’, I personally found a little too-ridiculous.

Sennia Nanua portrays the main character of the film: ‘Melanie’, a young girl with the abilities of: ‘The Hungries’ that still retains her human mind, and while I think her character is definitely interesting, I don’t feel her performance is up-to-par here. As she was only thirteen during filming, many of the emotional scenes with her feel very unbelievable. Alongside this, there are a variety of scenes with her character acting like a wild animal as her hunger continues to grow, most of which I found unintentionally hilarious. Perhaps if she was a little older when filming began this could’ve been avoided, although the weak writing also doesn’t help. The supporting cast do redeem this somewhat however, as Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine and Glenn Close are all fairly excellent within their roles.

The cinematography by Simon Dennis is easily my favourite element of the film, as there are many stunning shots throughout the runtime. As every shot really lends itself to many of the film’s more impactful or beautiful scenes, with the brilliant make-up effects and great set design also adding toward this, which is especially surprising considering the film’s budget, which was actually a lot smaller than many other zombie flicks. This does unfortunately affect the CGI effects throughout the film however, as a variety of shots throughout the story have some very out-of-place looking CGI visuals.

The wonderful original score by Cristobal Tapia de Veer is another element of the film I also really enjoyed, as the soundtrack is very atmospheric and really adds to many of the tense scenes throughout the film, very similar to the composer’s other scores, with Channel 4’s ‘Utopia’ and Netflix’s ‘Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency’ being some great examples, with the tracks: ‘Gifted’ and ‘Pandora’ being my personal favourites purely for how unique they sound. 

In conclusion, ‘The Girl with All the Gifts’ isn’t the worst zombie film I’ve ever seen. As the story does have some interesting elements and the cinematography and original score are pretty on point throughout the film, but sadly, the poor writing and laughable main performance combined really drag the film down for me. So I’m gonna give this one a 5/10 overall, although I was initially tempted to go lower, I believe this a fair grade based on the filmmaking.


Don’t Breathe (2016) – Film Review

Truly a visual treat when it comes to the film’s lighting and attractive colour palette, ‘Don’t Breathe’ is the second big-screen outing for director Fede Alvarez after he took-on the extremely gory: ‘Evil Dead’ remake a few years prior. Through its original story, incredibly tense atmosphere, brilliant cast as well as iconic horror director Sam Rami on-board as a producer, ‘Don’t Breathe’ manages to constantly remain both entertaining and thrilling in spite of nearly all its runtime taking-place within a single location.

When a trio of thieves break into an elderly blind man’s home in an attempt to steal the loan given to him as a settlement for his daughter’s death. They soon begin to realise that the old man isn’t as helpless as first seems, leaving the group to find a way out before its too late.

This simple yet unique plot is truly ripe for creating tense moments, as the film utilizes its main location of the ‘Blind Man’s house to the best of its advantage. Having the trio of characters make their way through the house’s tight corridors and dark rooms with plenty of extremely close encounters with the blind old man. Even having to hold their breath at points so he can’t hear them breathe (as the title of the film implies). Alongside this, ‘The Blind Man’ also has a pet rottweiler, which lends itself to creating even more intense scenes as the characters get pursed by the vicious canine. Who was actually portrayed by three different dog actors named: Athos, Astor, and Nomad respectively.

Stephan Lang, best known for his role as ‘Colonel Miles Quaritch’ in ‘Avatar’, portrays the film’s antagonist only ever-known as ‘The Blind Man’, and does a phenomenal job of it. Giving the audience an almost sympathetic view of the character through his innocent performance early-on before then quickly becoming far more unhinged and incredibly intimidating every-time he is on-screen. The rest of the cast of Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette and Daniel Zovatto also give remarkable performances as the young group of thieves, despite their characters only receiving a small amount of characterisation near the beginning of the film.

The cinematography by Pedro Luque is surprisingly inventive throughout, as in addition to the film’s array of visually pleasing shots. ‘Don’t Breathe’ actually uses its cinematography to allude to moments that come later within the narrative. In particular, in the scene where the trio first break into ‘The Blind Man’s house, as the camera glides through the various different rooms focusing on key objects or areas for reasons that are revealed later down the line. However, the real visual flair of the film is definitely the stunning lighting and colour palette as already mentioned, from dirty blues and greens to overly bright oranges. Each location (whether inside or out) is always given its own distinct appeal, sometimes even replicating what the audience should be feeling at that point, whether that is fear or relief.

Roque Baños, the same composer who previously worked with director Fede Alvarez on the ‘Evil Dead’ remake, returns to work alongside him once again. This time around crafting an original score which is both eerie and memorable, as the score uses metallic bangs and crashes to fit with the story’s location, giving the soundtrack a real personality similar to the film itself. ‘Don’t Breathe’ also uses its score very effectively, only placing it within more fast-paced moments after the tension has already risen, rather than overusing the original score in scenes where silence is mostly required.

When it comes to its runtime, ‘Don’t Breathe’ is actually quite short. As due to the film wanting to keep its viewer on-edge throughout nearly the entirety of its narrative, ‘Don’t Breathe’ is cautious not to overstay it’s welcome, an issue that many horror flicks have suffered from. As many horrors in the past have overplayed their concepts, eventually making them far less frighting/interesting by the time the credits roll. That being said however, I couldn’t help but feel a few more scenes with our protagonists wouldn’t have gone amiss, as there were actually a number of more character-focused scenes shot for the film before inevitably being cut.

In conclusion, I strongly enjoy ‘Don’t Breathe’, as this edge-of-the-seat horror/thriller is in my opinion, a genuine pleasure to watch every time. As aside from desiring a little more characterisation for the protagonists, I have very few issues with this one. As Stephen Lang’s sensational performance, in addition to the film’s great visuals and large number of tension-filled moments, leave ‘Don’t Breathe’ one of the most memorable indie horrors made in quite some-time. A high 8/10 overall. Personally, I’m really looking forward to seeing what else this interesting director has-up his sleeve, horror or not.