Director: John McPhail
Writers: Alan McDonald and Ryan McHenry
Starring: Ella Hunt, Malcolm Cumming, Sarah Swire, Christopher Leveaux, Marli Siu, Ben Wiggins, Mark Benton, and Paul Kaye
Anna and the Apocalypse is a Christmas musical zombie comedy/horror. It’s not going to appeal to everyone, but for those it does, it is a an incredibly funny and bizarre film that deserves a lot more attention than it originally received upon release. Inspired by everything from High School Musical to the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Anna and the Apocalypse shines in so many ways. Co-writer Ryan McHenry wrote and directed short Zombie Musical which is the basis for the full film. Sadly, he died of cancer while the film was still in production, but co-writer Alan McDonald and director John McPhail both did a great job a honouring his legacy and creating something that feels inspired, original and just pure brilliance.
It’s almost Christmas time and Anna (Ella Hunt) is looking forward to finishing the school year and travelling before university, against her dad’s wishes. The soon to be tyrannical headmaster Mr Savage (Paul Kaye) is trying to ruin everyone’s fun, before he takes over the school once the current headmaster retires. On the night of the Christmas show Chris (Christopher Leveaux) strangely misses his girlfriend’s performance. The next morning on the way to school Anna and John (Malcolm Cumming) find out the reason Chris wasn’t there is because the zombie apocalypse has started. They try to team up with friends and enemies to make it back to the school to save Anna’s dad.
This feels like the kind of film that could have gone so wrong, but it just gets almost everything right. Form the moment the singing starts, it’s just insanely fun and magical. The music numbers are really well written and choreographed. The lyrics are clever and funny. One of the highlights is the song ‘Turning My Life Around’ that Anna and Chris sing while walking to school the morning after the Christmas show. It’s like Shaun’s walk to the shop in Shaun of the Dead, where he doesn’t the impending apocalypse around him, just multiplied with even more silliness.
You very quickly grow to like the main characters. Anna and Chris are obviously meant to be together, although Anna doesn’t seem to notice it. Chris and his girlfriend, Steph (Sarah Swire), are really good together when they’re on screen. One of the best characters is Mr. Savage, the maniacal teacher who Is hellbent on destruction and a tough rule with an iron fist.
The only real downside is some of the novelty does wear off in the middle. It brings it back round with Mr. Savage singing the crazy ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Me Now’, as he’s setting the traps in the school. The film starts out really strong and ends really strong, it just struggles to keep the same energy all the way through.
Anna and the Apocalypse is the perfect Christmas film for horror fans. It’s joyous, funny, and something you could sing-a-long to after many re-watches.
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