Review: Things go wrong at this zombie prep school

Tom Long
The Detroit News

Zombie school. Of course. With young zombie students sitting at desks, learning chemistry and such. Preparing to take exams so they can go to — where else? — zombie college.

The awkwardly titled “The Girl with All the Gifts” does indeed have a zombie school. That is its chief innovation and it is a forward-thinking one. Imagine the places it could lead: Zombie professors, zombie fellowships, zombie doctors, zombie tutors. It’s endless.

Fortunately or unfortunately, “Girl” does not go down those paths. Instead it becomes a rather dark tale of survival with nice zombie grace notes tossed in. These zombies, you see, have been infected with a fungus that has taken over their brains. They’re driven by their sense of smell, so humans can hide behind a cover-up perfume of sorts. See — nice touches.

We do indeed start out at a zombie school in Britain. Soldiers wheel the seemingly docile zombie children into the classroom taught by Miss Justineau (Gemma Arterton), who has a soft spot for the little dickens, especially ever-polite Melanie (the precocious Sennia Nanua).

Turns out the zombie kids are fodder for Dr. Caldwell (Glenn Close, of all people), a scientist trying to find a zombie vaccine by cutting the students into little bits. She has just realized young Melanie is the key to her experiments when — as any casual “Walking Dead” fan could predict — a horde of zombies overwhelm the school’s protection and big bites are being taken out of everybody human.

Melanie, Miss Justineau and Dr. Caldwell escape in the company of a resourceful soldier (Paddy Considine) and are left to wander in search of help. Melanie, being a zombie, has to wear a plastic, see-through Hannibal Lecter-type mask to make sure she won’t eat her companions.

Zombie things happen, which means a lot of bloody encounters. It’s all fairly interesting if less than captivating, driven mostly by Nanua’s bright performance. In the end, it’s the zombie school idea that lingers. Think of the offshoots: Zombie physicians, zombie lawyers, zombie engineers, zombie politicians ...

Tom Long is a longtime culture critic


‘The Girl With All

The Gifts’


Rated R for disturbing violence/bloody images, and for language

Running time: 111 minutes