“Great holiday zombie movie” is a phrase we never thought we’d get to write. Thanks to ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE, our dream is fulfilled. The November 30 release, from Scottish director John McPhail, is a singing, dancing Christmas extravaganza that just happens to revolve around a plague of zombies.
Anna, played by Elia Hunt, is a young woman whose village in Scotland is thrown into chaos when the undead start roaming the streets, chomping on citizens. But Anna and her high school friends don’t even notice at first. One of the film’s best musical numbers features the heroine and her best friend John (Malcolm Cumming) both dancing through the streets, wearing headphones, so enveloped in their own worlds that the zombies around them go unnoticed. Then they realize what’s happening, and things get crazy.
ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE is a wild, funny, catchy movie, and it’s destined to be a new holiday cult classic.
The heart of this movie isn’t the zombies; it’s the songs. With choreography from Sara Swire, who also plays one of Anna’s fellow students, this film is brimming with energy. It’s got the verve of GLEE or HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL — just with a lot of extra corpses walking around. There’s pop and rock and punk. Songs are about everyday life and killing zombies, with Nick (Ben Wiggins), Anna’s bully-ish ex, belting out a number about laying waste to the undead.
Musicals are in a great place right now. Audiences have come back around to appreciating storytelling through big song and dance numbers, and we’re absolutely here for it. ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE just goes a step further by adding a big messy splash of horror.
A Red Christmas
While the songs make ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE super approachable and fun, there’s one thing to know. This is a bloody movie. Like… a super-bloody movie. The gore is gleeful, however, and often just as funny as the rest of the shenanigans. Think SHAUN OF THE DEAD rather than DAWN OF THE DEAD. Despite all the conflict on screen, this is a surprisingly sunny, bright movie.
The blood and gore is also a big part of what makes this movie so different from anything else. It’s a wild genre mash-up, and a movie for some audiences that don’t always race to buy tickets for a new holiday film. The MPAA gave this one an R, but it could have probably squeezed through with a PG-13 rating — it’s not mean enough to feel nasty.
Keep It Real
One of the big reasons ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE works is that it keeps the story tight, and real. There’s no big push to create big world-changing meanings. This is a story about high school kids dealing with high school kid stuff, only exaggerated to a point of total insanity. Like SHAUN OF THE DEAD, the zombie outbreak is a neat way to represent stuff the characters are already trying to deal with.
That even extends to the film’s villain — and yeah, beyond the existence of zombies there’s an actual bad guy. Paul Kaye (he played one of the Brotherhood Without Banners on GAME OF THRONES) plays a school official who makes life difficult for our new favorite kids. He also gets one of the film’s best songs, with a performance that wouldn’t be out of place in a Disney animated film. But even with all the horror around them, the high school kids in this movie still feel like precisely what they are, and that’s a great thing.
ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE opens on November 30.