29 July 2019

Living In A Box

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The Girl With All The Gifts might sound like the title of a high-class porno but it's actually a dystopian-set horror film that revolves around the metaphor of Schrödinger's cat. Not another one of them I hear you say?! If a cat is locked in a box with a can of poison that may or may not go off at a random point, is the cat alive or dead? Like the shit song Living In A Box, by the shit band Living In A Box, I reckon that actually having to live in a box would also be pretty shit and so expect an angry cat no matter what. This is also true of zombies when you make them live in a box apparently, although I'm not sure of their opinion on the band or song. The film takes place in a future Britain in which a fungal infection has gotten into the brains of most of the adult population and turned them into what the surviving characters refer to as the 'hungries'. From that nickname alone I think I might have an ex-girlfriend that may have had that brain-fungus. I can say that of course because although we might no longer be friends anymore, she was also a crazy bitch and can go fuck herself. However, the reality of this brain-fungus thing isn't actually too far from what the film suggests. Sure, a mushroom in your skull that can control your behaviour might sound as farfetched as being bitten by a rage infected monkey, but there is actually a fungus in our actual world that does latch onto the host's brain and will essentially turn them into a zombie. So far it's only known to work with ants and shit but for the sake of safety I'm still going to board up my windows and doors after stocking up on tinned goods and buying a fucking anteater.

So The Girl With All The Gifts begins with Melanie, a young girl that's secretly looking at a couple of photographs that she hides under her pillow. If that counts as 'all the gifts' then I seriously need to spend less money on my friends birthday presents. Almost instantly however an alarm goes off with the girl strapping herself into a wheelchair and being pushed to join the rest of her class by a couple of soldiers. Here we see that the children are all also restrained in scenes that resemble how a posh person might imagine a comprehensive school to look. We learn that Melanie and the other children might seem normal but when near flesh will turn into a pack of tiny psychopaths with clawing hands and snapping jaws. Just imagine a normal child on a sugar-high after you've hidden the wi-fi code from them, I guess. So Melanie is kept in a cell which is like a box, and she's a zombie which is something that is neither alive or dead. Can you see the Schrödinger's cat metaphor here?! One of the photographs that she keeps in her cell is even of a cat. It's more obvious if you watch the film but for now, we should at least pretend that I only noticed it because of my massive brain. This Schrödinger's cat question is asked of Melanie by one of her captives played by Glenn Close. The two don't see eye to eye for many reasons but the biggest hurdle in their relationship is probably that Glenn Close wants to chop the young girl up and boil her into a fucking soup to find a cure.

Sadly the base is over-run with outside monsters before the procedure can take place meaning that Close, a few soldiers, Melanie, and her favourite teacher Gemma Arterton have to evacuate. Essentially this film is just about a fucking weird school trip I suppose. It's set in London although I believe the movie was actually filmed around Birmingham and Stoke. You'd think that it was cheaper to show those areas as they really are instead of paying to make the capital look like it's been run down in an apocalypse. But if anything I'd say that they've had to pay to make Stoke look nicer than it really fucking is. At the very least I guess they likely saved having to organise zombie extras in Birmingham as you can just point the camera at any random local and instantly you've got the shambling half-life of what looks like the walking dead. If the film did have a low budget though it's not particularly obvious, all due to its focus on its characters and its various themes. If anything I'd say that George Romero's 1985 film Day Of The Dead is likely to be one of the movie's closest comparisons with both films taking place in a military base as what seems to be a mad scientist attempts to solve our zombie problem. That scientist's main zombie also happens to be one that's presented in a fairly sympathetic light. Although if you've ever had to work within the service industry then I expect you'd likely empathise with almost anything that intends to wipe out our shit fucking species. Make a film about the history of vaccinations and I'll spend most of its running time on the side of fucking smallpox.

In fact, it seems that zombies are becoming increasingly more human in general, with 28 Days Later introducing their ability to run, Land Of The Dead improving their power of thought, and now this movie essentially having the child zombies act completely human until they get hungry. In which case you have to ask if they're even monsters at all.. or just a little bit hangry. Sure they'll rip your throat out but if you go to a kebab shop after a night out and the queue takes longer than five minutes then I guarantee you'll see similar behaviour inside... especially in Stoke or Birmingham. This issue of who the real villain of the movie is may well be the very crux of what the film is about as it presents us with several moral decisions and then looks at them from every possible angle. Melanie seems caring, loving, clever and only occasionally feels the need to feast on the flesh of the living. At worst she's on the level of a bath-salts enthusiast after they've spotted a particularly delicious-looking tramp. In which case, Glenn Close is the villain, right? Sure she wants nothing more than to save the human race but I guess no matter how honourable your intentions are it never sounds great when you look at a child and state, “I just need her brain and spine”. Which is assuming that Melanie even is a child with Close suspecting that her human-like behaviour is simply mimicry. It's possible that the young girl is simple the zombie equivalent of Bobby Davro and who wouldn't kill Bobby Davro to save our species? If you don't know who Bobby Davro is then good for you.

I think the film, therefore, takes the stance that everything that has ever happened ever has just been a load of meaningless bollocks with our lives existing on a small rock in space that thrives on total chaos. Things don't happen because of the ongoing fight between good and evil but because things just happen to happen and occasionally they'll work out in our favour and occasionally they won't. That's also the line that I use whenever I'm angrily asked why I just sent a dick-pic to somebody out of the blue. However, the zombie adults are basically just walking mushrooms with the zombie children still capable of thought. If you've played The Last Of Us the adults are the same as in that, really. I'm a vegetarian that fucking loves the taste of meat but gave it up because I felt too guilty about having a living creature die just for my meal. The adults in this are therefore my dream source of food now that I think about it. It therefore seems that there's also one other theme running through the movie as well as the Schrödinger cat thing. Well, I guess there's a few, such as the morality of vivisection which is another similarity it shares with Day Of The Dead. They both also have great scores in case you give a shit... But The Girl With All The Gifts also plays with the idea that old people can't stand young people and that young people fucking hate old people. It's incredible to think that this film came out before we'd had three years of fucking Brexit in which the young and the old really have found a lot of new and exciting things to despise each other about.

Glenn Close is worried that Melanie is going to take her place in the world and destroy everything that she's ever known in the same way that our real-life old people are also selfish pricks that refuse to accept any change. Nor does Glenn Close hugely like the idea of her planet being turned into a giant fungus because God forbid the older generation leave us with a thriving natural environment. I'm pretty sure that the whole mushroom in the head thing is also how my Nan thinks that actual drugs work. In the way that Melanie attempts to avoid being left alone with Glenn Close I too have gotten pretty good at avoiding my Nan. On the flip-side, though the young zombies didn't ask to be how they are and as a result, they've been caged and told that they have to die. Young people don't like being dictated to by older people and as much as we appreciate their ancient wisdom I can't say that we're that fond of the housing crises. Or a retirement age of about 112 for that matter! And thanks to Brexit and the threat to the NHS, we're now in a position in which Glenn Close offering to saw open our head with a rusty fucking saw might be the closest thing to healthcare that we can actually afford. You can call that Project Fear if you like, but if it is then I'd call your side Project Go Fuck Yourself. You'll notice how, despite being thirty years old now, I've also put myself into the category of young people. If anything, that in itself was my main agenda for bringing up all of those points in the first place if I'm honest.

Anyway, so it was a great film, and by great I mean it was probably in the top five of all the films that I saw in the year that it came out. I say that as though I don't have a spreadsheet in which I can literally check every film that I saw that year. I can also see how I rated them all out of five and in what position this one actually came. You can tell that I'm cool, right? I have another spreadsheet documenting how many girls I slept within that same year but the number is so extreme that there's no point trying to include positions or where people came on that spreadsheet. Zero is a number right? Still. Zombie films will distract from the loneliness of existence, won't they? I've been watching them since my teenage years in which it seemed more productive to obsess over original Night Of The Living Dead director George Romero's work than to revise for something as insignificant as my GCSE's. That was even before I knew that you could literally just make your GCSE results up and nobody would ever check too. As such, I feel mildly qualified to state that as far as this sub-genre of horror goes The Girl With All The Gifts is very definitely at the higher end of quality. If you have a cat in a box and no way of knowing what condition it's in, does that make it alive or dead? Who fucking cares?! If you want to have a good time then just throw the fucking box into the canal with all of the other dead cats and just watch The Girl With All The Gifts instead. Thanks for reading, motherfuckers, and see you next time.

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