Anna And The Apocalypse review: a sweet, silly, gory Christmas gift
It’s the teen Christmas zombie musical we’ve all been waiting for…
We’re swimming in Christmas films. There are entire TV channels dedicated to showing Christmas movies for the entirety of December (and probably well into January, too). There are thousands of the damned things. And look, I know that most of us hit a wall with zombie films, too. There can’t be much we haven’t achieved in the field of zombie cinema at this point. And me personally? I don’t get along with musicals. With exceptions, I find they make me grind my teeth. Anna And The Apocalypse is a zombie Christmas musical and I’ve gotta tell you, I think it’s great.
Anna And The Apocalypse finds the teenage population of a small town attempting to be overwrought. With Christmas approaching, everything from loneliness to love feels heightened. The night of the Christmas talent show is not an ideal time for them to have to contend with a zombie apocalypse. But the undead rise and carnage descends, and so Anna (Ella Hunt) and her motley crew of friends have no choice but to band together and head to the school in search of their relatives. Oh, and they all keep singing.
What a fantastic balancing act the team behind Anna And The Apocalypse have pulled off. The characters in the film are all going through exactly the sort of problems you’d expect to see in an earnest teen drama series, like Dawson’s Creek or something. At the start of the film, they’re all happily singing and emoting their way through a sort-of E4 High School Musical. And then writers Alan McDonald and Ryan McHenry and director John McPhail decide to ambush them with a zombie movie…
The filmmakers take a load of zombie-movie tropes and bounce them off of the teen drama (with the zombies chewing up an impressively bloody mess in the process) and the end result is a fresh, lively, funny film. The teen drama ends up being the straight man to the blackly comic zombie movie in the comedy lead.
It ends up being riotously funny. There’s a savviness to when and how the tropes of both genres are used in order to make both work. They know when to catch us with a deflating dramatic note to get us to invest in the characters, and when to throw out a silly and grotesque gore gag.
The drama, it should be noted, is actually really effective when doled out in the bursts it is here. For a film that can get so silly, the dramatic beats – brilliantly played by the young cast – can really catch you off guard and suck the wind out of you, too. Then there are the songs, courtesy of Roddy Hart and Tommy Reilly, which are catchy pop nightmares that will haunt every quiet moment you have for weeks to come.
While Anna And The Apocalypse has a full house when it comes to film-gimmick bingo, it ends up being a brilliant cinema experience because of its earnestness and youthfulness. It’s a bunch of young, energetic people trying to make the best drama film that they can, the goriest zombie film that they can, the catchiest musical that they can and the funniest comedy that they can. They’ve gone all in and, even in the film’s weaker moments (it loses a little steam towards the end), you can’t help but will them on. Its limited release means it’s the sort of film that needs help in finding an audience. The film itself is so bursting with enthusiasm that you’ll want to help it find that audience.
That’s what makes it such an easy recommendation. Anna And The Apocalypse is a sweet, silly and gory Christmas treat.