I’m not sure what is going on with the Universe, but time flies by way too quickly nowadays. Unfortunately, as I get older, that all seems to happen even more rapidly. As if the year didn’t speed by quickly enough on its own, I’ve decided to help things along by watching a film which takes place during Christmas time. The film I am referring to is John McPhail’s Anna and the Apocalypse.
After a zombie outbreak overtakes the town of Little Haven, Anna and her friends must fight their way through the undead hordes to save their loved ones.
I have been watching horror films since I was about 13 years old. Now, I know that is not as long as some others, but I tend to think of 19 years as a rather long time to be doing anything. I pride myself on the fact that I’ve seen more films than most people. Even still, from time to time, a film crosses my path that is like no other I have experienced.
If you take the best parts of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Breakfast Club, and Shaun of the Dead, you may have something closely resembling what Anna and the Apocalypse brings to the table.
Anna and the Apocalypse is a coming-of-age story that takes place at Christmas time. Its main cast of characters is made up of high school students, school faculty, and family members of those students, all of which are faced with some sort of tough decision regarding the next stage of their ever-changing lives.
We all go through the normal trials and tribulations life throws at us, some with more crosses to bear than others. Each character in this film does a great job at showing just how those hardships can not only shape an individual, but also bring people closer together when it matters most.
In keeping with the holiday spirit, Anna and the Apocalypse stresses the significance of family, friends, and togetherness, something that is not often present in horror films of any sub-genre. The on-screen chemistry among the cast is fun to watch and it is clear to see that this same type of camaraderie and closeness was shared by the entire cast and crew that worked on this feature film.
The horror genre has seen musicals before, so that is nothing new. Films like the aforementioned Rocky Horror, Sweeney Todd, or even Repo! The Genetic Opera, which happens to be a favorite of mine, were never so ambitious, however.
Anna and the Apocalypse takes High School Musical and mixes it with Night of the Living Dead. Not only that, but the brand of comedy sprinkled throughout the film’s 93 minutes is hilarious and quite effective at lightening the mood of a rather somber picture.
I have always loved music and there is rarely a time where you won’t find me listening to something in my headphones. Generally, my rotation is filled with heavy metal or underground hip hop, but I am not ashamed to say that I absolutely love the music this film has to offer. The songs, whether the poppy upbeat “Hollywood Ending” or the more somber and serious “Human Voice,” are all catchy as hell and will take some time to dissipate from my memory.
I’ve touched on the music and the comedy, but I have a feeling some of you guys are here for the horror side of things, naturally. Thankfully, what Anna and the Apocalypse does right in those areas, it also gets right in the horror department.
The first on-screen kill is executed with the help of digital special effects, but I am happy to report that the majority of the remaining kill scenes are performed in brutal fashion with some rather impressive practical effects. Exploding heads, evisceration, and the typical zombie munching and biting you’d expect are all rather gruesome and a very welcoming sight between musical numbers.
The cast is made up of some very talented youngsters, each bringing their own unique takes to their respective characters, as well as some beautiful singing voices. Everyone from Ella Hunt and Malcolm Cumming, as best friends Anna and John, to Ben Wiggins, as this school’s equivalent of a testosterone-fueled jock, Nick, do a remarkable job and are fun to follow through the corpse-populated streets of Scotland.
My favorite of the bunch, however, is the performance by Sarah Swire. As Steph, Swire is a little bit snarky and standoffish, but she has a big heart and is willing to do anything for her new found friends. In addition to this wonderful portrayal of Steph, Swire also acted as the film’s choreographer, creating some pretty powerful scenes to go along with the wonderfully written and composed pieces by Roddy Hart and Tommy Reilly.
I would be remiss to not also mention the great performance by Paul Kaye (HBO’s “Game of Thrones”) as the villainous soon-to-be headmaster of the school and the appropriately named [Arthur] Savage. He added that extra layer of tension and an additional roadblock for the students that the zombies couldn’t provide themselves.
Anna and the Apocalypse Home Release
Anna and the Apocalypse is available now on DVD from Cinedigm. The film is presented in a letterbox 16×9 2:40 aspect ratio, with a English 5.1 Dolby Digital audio track, and English closed captions and SDH.
The home release also features a behind-the-scenes featurette on the making of the film with cast and crew interviews and more.
Based on short film Zombie Musical by Ryan McHenry who sadly passed away in 2015, Anna and the Apocalypse is the genre mashup that I never knew I wanted but always needed. Horror doesn’t always have to be about how brutal a death scene is or how much money was spent on achieving the biggest body count. There is much more to this film and I am happy to have it in my collection.
It is a great film to watch around Christmas time as a pre-cursor to the more violent and gory flicks you may frequently revisit during that time of year typically, so be sure to pick up a copy today!
I give this one 4 bowling alley decapitations out of 5.