The zombie comedy-musical Anna and The Apocalypse is sure to be your next holiday horror classic. Christmas seems to be the one time of year we can all get behind a good musical, and regardless of how your family feels about zombies, they may just have a hard time telling you to turn off a movie with catchy tunes, cheerful characters and large candy canes fashioned into life-saving spears. As a zombie movie, Anna and The Apocalypse is a fun entry into the cannon and as a musical, the film digs deep into the core of teenagers who’s hearts told them the world was ending before they were able to confirm that assumption with their own eyes.
Anna and The Apocalypse recently celebrated it’s Toronto premiere at the 2018 Toronto After Dark Film Festival, just ahead of it’s theatrical release November 30th, 2018. The film is directed by John McPhail with writing credits for Alan McDonald & Ryan McHenry, and stars Ella Hunt, Malcolm Cumming, Sarah Swire, Christopher Leveaux, Ben Wiggins, and Marli Siu.
Like all good teenagers, Anna (Ella Hunt) just wants to sing songs with her friends in painfully choreographed dance numbers, run away to Australia for a year before university, and bash in a few zombie brains. It’s Christmas time in Little Haven and the seasonal flu has some extra bit this year. There are reports on the radio of mysterious deaths but now’s not the time to worry about such gross, cheerless troubles. Besides, everyone has enough to worry about without the threat of the mindless undead breaking down the doors but if they want to live to see another semester, Anna and her friends will have to put aside the drudgery of daily lives and rise to the occasion!
If you’re a zombie fan, Anna and The Apocalypse serves up all the tropes. From the sad deaths of loved ones, to that one wicked bastard who seizes the opportunity for an evil empire, the movie is very clearly made by fans of the genre. And assuming your also mad for musicals, you can finally jump for joy at this seemingly impossible venn diagram of interests that could just as easily be called “Night of The Singing Dead“.
I’ve been wrestling with this review for a while now. Unfortunately, I’m not a big fan of musicals or zombies. After years in the pit band of musical theatre programs and what feels like a lifetime of brain-eating b-movies, I’ve had my fill. Not that I can’t be occasionally surprised by either, I’m just trying to say that I am not exactly the ideal demographic for Anna and The Apocalypse. So let’s make this real easy and focus on what the film is trying to accomplish. Is Anna and The Apocalypse a musical? Life has not killed this dream you dreamed (Translation: Yes, yes it is). Set during Christmas with plenty of ugly sweaters, and holly-jolly good cheer? The treetops do indeed glisten. Blood-thirsty tear-you-apart zombies? You can bet your bottom dollar there are zombies!
If what you’re hoping to find in Anna and The Apocalypse is a fun send-up of the zombie sub-genre that finally incorporates your love for theatre and sung soliloquies then this is surely the movie for you. And let’s be real- like it or not, it will always be nice to have another horror-tinged holiday classic to keep you from stuffing dinner rolls in your ears as Rudolph The Snot-Nosed Reindeer tries to make friends or fight a yeti or whatever.
Bah-Humbuging aside, there is a stroke of brilliance in the film that so perfectly showcases the emotions (and tropes) of zombie movies, and coming-of-age films. Early in the film, we’re treated to a song that highlights our teen’s inner turmoil, lamenting that there is “no such thing as a Hollywood ending”. The sentiment returns again, reprising the motif, but with fresh context. Yes, teenagers’ story arcs always end with a new look on life, but in a zombie movie, the world is no longer inviting, and all those hopes and dreams you once had are gone in an instance. It’s a return, and a use of the medium that took my dangerously dismissive demeanor by surprise.
Personal preference aside, Anna and The Apocalypse is a story intended for it’s medium. It isn’t simply a zombie movie with few songs thrown at it, and it isn’t another high-school musical exploiting these new popular things called “zombies”. Anna and The Apocalypse is a heck of a lot of fun if you’re the kind of person looking for this particular brand of fun.
The film recently celebrated it’s Toronto premiere at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival but after a lengthy and impressive festival run, Anna and The Apocalypse comes to theatres November 30th, 2018 just in time for the holidays. Check out all of Nightmare on Film Street’s Toronto After Dark coverage here!