Starring: Ella Hunt, Malcolm Cumming, Sarah Swire, Christopher Leveaux, Paul Kaye
Directed By: John McPhail
Running Time: 97 Minutes
UK Release Date: 30 November 2018
BBFC Certificate: 15
For those who don’t know, Anna and the Apocalypse is about a secondary school girl named Anna. It’s based in Scotland, at Christmas, with a zombie outbreak, and it’s a musical. My initial thoughts were that this film could either be terrible or a lot of fun, and thankfully it’s the latter.
Fleshing out the plot (pun fully intended) Anna (Hunt) is a young girl who dreams of travelling the world despite her father Tony (Mark Benton) wishing for her to attend university. Her best friend John (Cumming) is unfortunately in the friend zone, American exchange student Steph (Swire) has been abandoned by her family who are on holiday in Mexico, and the night after the school Christmas variety performance a zombie apocalypse has broken out across the their local town and the globe.
Anna along with the above and film nerd Chris (Leveaux) must venture to their school where several parents and students are taking refuge along with newly appointed head teacher Mr Savage (Kaye), and along the way they all try to stay alive while rescuing Anna’s father and Chris’ girlfriend, Lisa (Marli Siu).
So that’s the basic plot but of course there are many twists and turns along the way, some predictable, some not so much, but all in all it’s a fun and festive romp.
While it’s set in Scotland, the film doesn’t come across as being eye-pokingly Scottish, which is a good thing, and grim social realistic politics don’t really belong in this film. So no comparisons to the likes of Trainspotting (1996) or Neds (2010), but also you would be foolish to compare this film to Shaun of the Dead (2004), although it does have one or two ‘zip crash’ edits that are a staple of Edgar Wright’s films. Yes, there are the familiar ‘zombie apocalypse’ plot beats and homages that we’ve seen countless times, but what makes this a fresh entry to the genre is the fact it’s a musical; and features some great songs too.
The songs don’t suddenly start out of nowhere or feel out of place and are generally fun, witty, and as per all good musicals, help drive the plot and give exposition to what the characters are feeling when faced with internal and external crises. We also have a hilarious song about Lisa’s love for Santa, a song about there being no such thing as a Hollywood ending, and amongst others a song about hunting zombies. As expected there are accompanying dance routines and this adds to the overall fun of the film.
The movie is well cast and it seems like the majority were all plucked from stage school, and I hope they all go on to have great careers. Ella Hunt’s performance as the titular Anna is great and helps hold the film together, and she plays it straight which helps this film stray into b-movie territory. Malcolm Cumming plays John on the right level of likeable geek without being too stereotypical or annoying, and Paul Kaye is also fantastic as the controlling, generally horrible Mr Savage.
I’m pleased to say that on the whole this genre mashup of a film works well and keeps a generally consistent tone. It’s not perfect and some of the laughs just fall flat as do some of the more serious emotional beats, but to be fair this film will never win any awards for best drama and if you’re expecting it will then you need to remind yourself it’s a high school Christmas zombie musical, so expect a bit of fun!
So where does a film like this sit? It’s very much a film of its time and I hope it will gain a strong following and be shown in late night cinemas across the world for years to come and make the transition to stage one day. Like many films it has its flaws but I was impressed by the cast, the songs and what the filmmakers had done with its low budget. It’s full of humour, heart, guts and various other bodily parts.
Overall Verdict: Anna and the Apocalypse is one of those unique genre-mashup films that come along every few years and in this case works very well. It’s a surreal joy to watch and is often hilarious in both visual style and the catchy songs which altogether help drive the plot, but you would be mistaken to compare this to the likes of Shaun of the Dead or High School Musical. It’s a film of the times that is destined for cult status and is a highly entertaining and silly film.
Reviewer: George Elcombe