My first thought when I finished watching “Anna and the Apocalypse,” was that I had just watched a horror themed version of the Golden Globe winning television series “Glee.” Instead of the story, in the film, taking place in a high school, in Scotland, it would’ve been shifted to William McKinley High in Lima, Ohio, and onward, and so forth. Leaving that aside, in the film, which I did get the proverbial kick out of, Anna portrayed by BAFTA nominee Ella Hunt (The More You Ignore Me) is a senior in high school. She has a sense of adventure, and is looking to escape her hometown of Little Haven, and her job at the bowling alley. She seeks excitement abroad in Australia, before attending college. Anna’s plans aren’t received with enthusiasm from her father Tony (Mark Benton); her mother, as mentioned to the viewer, is deceased. Tony’s mindset is shared by Anna’s best friend, John (Malcolm Cumming), who hasn’t expressed clearly to Anna, that his feelings for her extend beyond friendship. Anna and John, are both close friends with film enthusiast, Chris (Christopher Leveaux) and aspiring singer, Lisa (Marli Siu), who are in love. The four friends will soon be putting their young lives on hold, to ward off the impending doom that is about to plague their town.
Anna and John, first learn something is very wrong, on their way to school, when they come face to face with a man dressed as a snowman. The man inside the costume is very animated, but he is the antithesis of the cartoon version of Frosty. After escaping the creature’s grasp, they seek shelter in the bowling alley, where they meet up with Chris and Steph (Sarah Swire). Steph is an American exchange student, who is bitter over her parents leaving her alone during the Christmas holidays to vacation in Mexico, and the fact that her significant other just broke up with her. She, like the rest of her peers, will soon put all other problems aside, and focus on survival. Their first plan of action is to make their way safely to their school, where Tony and Lisa, are rehearsing for the town’s Christmas show, which is being run by the high strung, high school headmaster, Mr. Savage (Paul Kaye). (As an aside: Sarah Swire, also did the choreography for the film).
Getting to the high school safely, will be easier said than done. Their journey there, does, however, lead to some of the film’s most entertaining scenes. On the way to the school, as they attempt to keep from getting killed, they meet up with Nick (Ben Wiggins), Anna’s charming, but, nonetheless, jerk of an ex. He and his friends, are also making their way to the high school, while fighting off a horde of zombies.
Will Anna and her friends be able to save their loved ones? How many of them will die in the process? Does anyone survive to see the next day? All of those questions and more will be answered by the conclusion of the film, which is parts comedy – fantasy – horror and musical. Those looking for an explanation as to how all the chaos began, as these films are apt to explain at the start, will be left wondering. The how and the why of what caused all the mayhem is not the central focus of the film. The zombie outbreak began, and its characters unwittingly were thrust into a life and death struggle for survival, albeit replete with numerous song and dance numbers.
“Anna and the Apocalypse” premiered on September 22, 2017 at the Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas. The music heard throughout the film’s 93 minute runtime was composed by Scottish singer-songwriter, Roddy Hart and songwriter and composer, Tommy Reilly. The film was directed by John McPhail (Where Do We Go From Here), and based on the screenplay co-written by Alan McDonald (One Night in Sutherland Hill), and BAFTA nominee Ryan McHenry (Zombie Musical). McHenry, who passed away in 2015 from cancer, had, in 2011, written and directed the short film “Zombie Musical” from which the feature film was adapted.
This is the sort of film, that today, will be found on the same shelf alongside mainstream movies; but if Tower Records were still in business, I could envision it having a place amongst the offerings in its midnight movie section. I’ve heard the film often compared to BAFTA nominee Edgar Wright’s “Shaun of the Dead,” and while certainly not a rip off by any means, in certain respects, it is a fair comparison. The movie has little in the way of jump scares, especially for horror aficionados. Although it can get a bit gross at times, during some of the more violent and blood spattered scenes, in my opinion, those scenes, for the most part, come off as more cartoonish than pulse pounding. With that being said, for those of you, who are amongst the faint of heart, this is, perhaps, a film you’ll want to skip.
I sat down to watch “Anna and the Apocalypse” with no pre-conceived expectations. Of course, I had an inkling, that it would be very zany in places, but, that didn’t bother me, I was going to take the film for what it was. In conclusion, I felt that it took the increasingly overdone and tiresome zombie theme, and added a fresh approach to the material, which held my interest from start to finish.