With some catchy tunes, Anna and the Apocalypse is able to offer up a fun and refreshing change for the zombie movie genre.
As the film starts out, a news report reveals that an illness thought to be a flu strain is really a lethal pathogen. Most of the people in the Scottish town of Little Haven don’t even bother paying attention to the news. In fact, Anna (Ella Hunt) would rather put music back on than hear any more. There’s some tension between Anna and her janitor father, Mark (Mark Benton). She would rather travel for a year than go to college. Think of how your mother would feel, Anna! It’s such a cliche but it helps set the tone in their relationship.
Anna’s best friend is artist John (Malcom Cumming) and while he would like to be something more, alpha male Nick (Ben Wiggins) is interested in Anna. Then there’s aspiring journalist Steph (Sarah Swire). There’s some loneliness to her character with her parents off in Mexico and her girlfriend lives elsewhere. That the film doesn’t make a big deal of her being a lesbian is a fresh relief. Also in the friend group are aspiring filmmaker Chris (Christopher Leveaux) and Lisa (Marli Siu). The two are inseparable. There’s a fun musical number in the cafeteria about how life is not full of Hollywood endings.
School headmaster Mr. Savage (Paul Kaye) has a name very fitting for his character. The name is a great fit for his personality. He gets a good number later in the film but he’s such an asshole.
As the talent show is going on, a whole lot of chaos is hitting the city. There’s chaos at the school and at the bowling alley. But before we meet up, there’s a cute musical number where Anna and John are OBLIVIOUS to what’s happening around them. It’s such a cliche but the catchy music and choreography make it fun to watch anyway!
Once Nick and his crew join the fun, there’s a show-stopping “Soldier at War” tune as zombies get slashed left and right. Is anyone safe? It’s honestly hard to tell. All it takes is a bite before you end up undead. That doesn’t change the fact that we have a core group of characters driving the film. It’s this core group that we find ourselves rooting for. Even Nick, who comes off as a prick!
There’s so much fun in John McPhail’s direction of the film that it could seriously rival High School Musical. The songwriting team of Roddy Hart and Tommy Reilly have given this film some very catchy tunes. If a musical film isn’t able to provide at least one show-stopper, it would be a failure. Thankfully, this comes in the form of “Soldier At War.” You almost don’t want the film to end because the music is so fun. If Ella Hunt isn’t a household name because of this film, she should be. Honestly, I’m looking forward to seeing what she does next after this film.
When the characters don’t break out into song, Alan McDonald and Ryan McHenry are able to ground the script in a relatable way. The actions of Anna and her friends have us caring about what happens. Even when the film ends, nobody knows what’s going to happen because we don’t know if there’s a cure.
A zombie musical is probably the last thing anybody expected heading into December. This is the time of year when studios release Oscar contenders. Anna and the Apocalypse is the furthest thing from Oscar consideration. With a film set during December, one might assume that this film would consist of the never-ending usual tunes. I’m here to say that THANK G-D, this is not the case! I know, I know. But I’m not here to talk about how it feels to be Jewish at this time of year.
The musical numbers along with the comedy aspect should help give Anna and the Apocalypse the potential become a cult classic to be devoured over the years to come.
DIRECTOR: John McPhail
SCREENWRITERS: Alan McDonald and Ryan McHenry
CAST: Ella Hunt, Malcom Cumming, Ben Wiggins, Sarah Swire, Christopher Leveaux, Marli Siu, Mark Benton and Paul Kaye