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ANNA & THE APOCALYPSE (2017)

Directed by John McPhail
Written by Alan McDonald, Ryan McHenry
Starring Ella Hunt, Malcolm Cumming, Sarah Swire, Christopher Leveaux, Marli Siu, Ben Wiggins, Mark Benton, Paul Kaye, Sean Connor, John Winchester, Euan Bennet, Ella Jarvis, Janet Lawson, Ruth McGhie, Kirsty Strain, Therese Bradley, Jackie Bird, Calum Cormack, Michael Annis, Leigh Butler, Jake Richardson, Callum Johnstone, Myfanwy Morgan, John McGeachie
Find out more about this film here!

While ONE CUT OF THE DEAD might be the most heartwarming zombie film ever made, ANNA & THE APOCALYPSE might just be the most adorable. I am in no way a fan of GLEE or HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL, though I do appreciate the craft of blending music and film. There’s a sort of suspension of disbelief that one must have in order to enjoy a film where someone just bursts out in song at any given moment, but that’s no greater a suspension than one I have to use in order to believe there are unkillable slashers, snarling wolfman, and elder gods in the cinematic world playing out before me. Musicals sort of link with the inner teenager in us all, I think. Those highly emotional years when we are all walking open wounds and every song on the radio was written just for the situation you are in right now. Watching ANNA & THE APOCALYPSE, I am not too proud to say, I was able to harness that awkward, wide-eyed, ginger kid that was me in my teenage years and I found myself enjoying it immensely.

Anna (Ella Hunt) is a plucky outcast with a fantastic voice and a drive to travel around the world, but doesn’t have the drive to really participate in the big high school musical. Wouldn’t you know, just as the holiday musical is about to be presented, the zombie apocalypse happens. This is bad news for all in the small town of Little Haven, including friend-zone victim John (Malcolm Cumming), rebel reporter Steph (Sarah Swire), aspiring filmmaker Chris (Christopher Leveaux), aspiring actress Lisa (Marli Siu), Anna’s asshole former boyfriend Nick (Ben Wiggins), Anna’s protective father (Mark Benton), and jerk disciplinarian teacher Savage (Paul Kaye), who all warble and fight for their lives against scores of zombies which descend upon the school just in time for Christmas. Battling zombies with clubs, bats, and song, the group tries to survive long enough to get through the holidays and to safety.

While I don’t attest to be an expert, I will say that the songs in ANNA & THE APOCALYPSE are surprisingly well made and catchy. I found myself humming quite a few songs after finishing this film, which takes advantage of the emotional moments by putting them to earworming tunes. The whole thing really does flow naturally, amping the fun in some dire situations and rarely feeling as if the songs are out of place or out of the blue.

The cast is also quite likable. Ella Hunt leading the pack as the rebellious Anna, willing to fight for what she wants and believes in. I like the fact that her narrative is not the typical romance novel route as she seems to not have a need that can be filled with a man in her life, even though she has a lot of suitors lining up for her affection. It is interesting that not only does ANNA & THE APOCALYPSE not follow the typical Hollywood template with pairing up Anna with someone, but it also establishes itself by not really making things political about the holidays. I’m sure had this UK film been made in America, there would be the tired arguments about the myriad of holidays, but this film is without a lot of the usual Christmas strife found in most of the cynical holiday fare you usually see. This is downright refreshing to see a modern film, not making fun of the holidays, but celebrating it—despite the fact that zombies are walking around during it.

ANNA & THE APOCALYPSE is not a particularly gory film, though it does know when to add the splatter with some humor and shock. This is not one that will trigger the gag reflex, but instead simply has a lot of fun with the material. I don’t think this is a film that will scare even the faintest of hearts. Still, ANNA & THE APOCALYPSE is a sweet and refreshing film that celebrates the holidays and gives a warm hug to the horror genre. If you’re willing to take the saccharinity of it all, I think ANNA & THE APOCALYPSE could be a fun holiday film worth revisiting annually surrounded by the ghouls you love.