Directed by John McPhail
Starring Ella Hunt, Mark Benton, Malcolm Cumming, Paul Kaye
It may not be the first time that the apocalypse has been touched upon by a musical (Little Shop of Horrors, The Apple, Buffy: Once More With Feeling), but that unusual combination of zombies and songs has certainly given Anna and the Apocalypse something different. Based on the 2010 BAFTA award winning short Zombie Musical, Anna and the Apocalypse brings doomsday and songs to a small Scottish town in the days before Christmas.
As she prepares for the end of the school year and graduation, Anna (Ella Hunt) dreams of getting away from her small town life and holidaying in Australia. However it seems that more than just her father has ways of stopping her. In amongst the tinsel and the high school drama, there is something strange going on in the town of Haven, and soon Anna and her friends must struggle against a horde of zombies.
Better as a zom-com than a musical, Anna and the Apocalypse manages to combine the two, and add unlife back into the overplayed zombie genre. Those pithy musical numbers add a point of difference, and although there is nothing that really stands out above a high school musical (or even High School Musical), they are executed with the right amount of flare and style, certainly demonstrating the talent of the young cast. It’s a film that doesn’t shy away from the gore of its subject, often highlighting it for comic effect (decapitation by see-saw anyone?). This gives a giddy lightweight feel to what could be a very hefty subject matter, creating a quirky and enjoyable comedy film. Add to this the Christmas setting (always a popular and quirky setting, just ask Shane Black) and you have a movie that is certainly jostling for cult status.
However, despite its solid execution, Anna and the Apocalypse doesn’t quite have the substance to shift it to the next level. Unlike the best zombie films, there is not an underlying message brought through by the zombie scourge, such as the sly dig at rampant consumerism in Dawn of the Dead, or a stab at the monotonous work/life balance of Shaun of the Dead. Sure it takes a vague swipe at high school pecking orders, or teenage rebellion, but it never really lands a cohesive message.
Ultimately you just have to appreciate Anna and the Apocalypse for what it is, and that honestly may be enough. A dose of musical holiday fun, with added zombies.