By The Nerdling
A musical set at Christmastime where the zombie apocalypse happens. Do I really need to tell you more?
I do? Oh…
Anna and the Apocalypses is a cult classic in the making. Catchy musical numbers will have you downloading the album as soon as the end credits are rolling (a couple of songs made it to the Christmas Playlist). Superb work from fairly unknown talents portraying characters you actually like. And the most important part, plenty of zombie head bashing.
With all the action taking place in a small-town and high schoolers making up the majority of the main characters, the usual archetypes are all present. Anna (Ella Hunt) is the girl who wishes to see the world and has a plan in place to do so after graduation. Her overly-protective father (Mark Benton) uses the death of her mom in an attempt to guilt her into staying. The evil, control freak principal, aptly named Savage (Paul Kaye), endeavors to bring the school under his thumb (both before and after the apocalypse). John (Malcolm Cumming) is perpetually friend-zoned bestie who is bullied by Anna’s bad-boy ex, Nick (Ben Wiggins). Steph (Sara Swire), the token-woke lesbian on a mission to shed light on the growing homelessness problem. Chris (Christopher Leveaux) and Lisa (Marli Siu) the oversexed couple who also double as the wannabe filmmaker and wannabe actress.
What Anna and the Apocalypse does really well is make these characters likeable. Yes, those stereotypes are well played out. But the combination of talented actors and magnificent character driven moments has you falling in love with all of them. It really adds on the emotional weight of the third act.
Director John McPhail balances the action and musical numbers from Roddy Hart and Tommy Reilly. It is obvious Anna takes inspiration from Shawn of the Dead. “Turning My Life Around” features Anna and John dancing around with the carnage of a zombie massacre happening without their notice. The number pays homage to the zombie film in a way that isn’t ripping Shawn off.
“Hollywood Ending”, the big cast number at the beginning, is not a slick, excessively choreographed set. It almost seems a little clumsy put together, kind of like a high school production. But it just adds to the fun, adorkable nature of Anna. It sets this film apart in a good way from overly produced musicals like La La Land and The Greatest Showman.
For me, Anna is right up there with other Christmas (but not really Christmas) movies like Die Hard, Trading Places, and Batman Returns. The holiday is in the background for those movies, not a significant plot line.
And that might be the Anna’s only real flaw. It is billed as a Zombie-Christmas Musical, but the story could have been set at any time of the year. The Holiday decorations are only there to serve as weapons and cannon fodder in the fight against zombies. Only two songs are Christmas related. “Christmas Means Nothing Without You” sung by non-cast member Shonagh Murray. It plays at the beginning and end of the film. And “It’s That Time of Year”, a provocative “Santa Baby” like song performed brilliantly by Marli Siu and shirtless male backup dancers.
Anna and the Apocalypse is sure to please those looking for something different to add to their holiday movie traditions. The normal holiday movies are fine, but sometimes you need a great tune to bash some zombie heads in to.
The Nerdling was born in the majestic land known as Texas and currently resides there after several years of journeying through Middle Earth in a failed attempt to steal the one Ring from that annoying hobbit, serving the Galactic Empire for a time, and then a short stint as a crew member on the Serenity. Since moving back to her homeland, Nerdling flirted with a hero reputation. Saving children from the dangers of adoring domineering, sparkly vampires (champions with souls are the only vampires worth loving) and teaching normals the value of nerdom, all while rooting for her beloved Dallas Stars. Then came the Sokovia Accords and her short spell of saving others came to an end. With Darth Vader’s reputation rightfully returning to badass status, Nerdling is making her way back to the Empire. They do have cookies, you know. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram.