November 27, 2018 Anna and the Apocalypse (Movie Review)
The age old saying is ‘you can’t judge a book by it’s cover,’ and it’s true, but that phrase also works in when referencing film as well. When presented with the idea of a Christmas themed zombie musical, one might jump to the wildest conclusions as what to expect. Perhaps fearing that the execution of such a strange hybrid may hinder the horror aspect or undermine the film’s depth, in the case of Anna and the Apocalypse, neither assumption is true. In fact, it is a film that lives up to its name and then some. Set for limited theatrical release on Friday, November 30th, under the revitalized Orion Pictures brand, just in time for the 2018 holiday season, with this film, it is best to expect the unexpected.
A feature Horror flick of non-stop entertainment, it is based off of a 2010 short film, called Zombie Musical, written by Ryan McHenry. Inspiring a full-length feature, jumping on board as the director for Anna and the Apocalypse is John McPhail (Where Do We Go From Here? 2015), working from a screenplay written by Alan McDonald. At just around 92 minutes, the backdrop for the film is a high school in the small Scottish town of Little Haven set around Christmas time featuring Actress/Singer Ella Hunt (Intruders 2011, Cold Feet series) charmingly playing the lead character Anna.
Anna, and her best friend John, humorously played by Malcolm Cumming (Aquarius series, The Magicians series), are on their walk to high school after a zombie apocalypse breaks out over night. Oblivious to these facts, walking from separate parts of town, they are lost in song, singing about a fresh start to life and future in which Anna is an overachiever planning to attend college in Australia. As the two cross paths in the cemetery, a man dressed as a snowman appears and it is revealed that he is indeed one of the undead… thus the fun begins.
From this adorably horrific scene on, it is discovered that these characters are very much placed in a ‘realistic’ apocalypse setting where cell phones are not working, although are still cherished for photos and memories they contain. As Anna and John try to make their way to the school to find their loved ones, they first stop at the bowling alley they work at and are joined by two classmates – Steph and Chris – played by Sarah Swire (God Help the Girl 2014) and Christopher Leveaux (Writers Retreat 2015, Forgotten Man 2017) respectfully. All characters extremely well thought-out characters, Swire’s portrayal of Steph as an angst-fueled lesbian just rejected by her girlfriend is extremely comedic and one of many highlights in the film.
With Swire, and of course Hunt’s Anna, there is an overall strong mix of talent making up a wonderful cast of characters. Together they give the plot depth, even while there are parts of the film which are song and dance; a factor which arguably shallows down the development a bit. Additionally, the songs themselves are witty, heartfelt, and they do not over-indulge.
For example, perhaps the best musical moments of the film takes place outside the bowling alley where they run into the bad boys of the class, led by Nick (Ben Wiggins: Cam2Cam 2014, Stay Still 2015), who grab their weapons of choice and bust some old folks and cheerleader zombie asses. The tune is so comical, and the scene is so brutal, that the contradiction between the two works brilliantly. One of many scenes like this, all of this transpires while you can’t help but fall in love with each character along the way. To have such a roller coaster of emotions during a film where laughing happens two minutes before the tears, even make the element of horror more prominent.
Beyond all this, the costumes, graphic elements, and prop usage is high quality. Just how good? Well, at one point mid-film, Anna picks up a large plastic candy cane, while Steph finds a large plastic leg, make these their weapon of choice for zombie bashing. This further enhances the comedy, but also brings an extremely realistic element to the film which continuously plays on how the modern world is so reliant on technology.
All in all, Anna and the Apocalypse is a delightfully creative movie that any kind of Horror, Comedy, or Musical fan can enjoy. While there may have been a few films out there in the past with similar plots, none have been quite like this one which possesses a one of a kind distinction from start to finish. The music itself can be enjoyed by all types of tastes as well, and most importantly, it does not impact the depth of the film in a negative way. A film that will resonate with you after exiting the theater, you will find yourself looking around each corner searching for real life zombies! Well worth checking out, Cryptic Rock gives Anna and the Apocalypse 4.5 out of 5 stars.