The lights are low, the music’s swelling, and I’m unwrapping all my candy canes now so I don’t have to make a lot of noise later okay so you can quit asking! Which can mean only one thing: it’s time for Screaming in Harmony, where we shine a spotlight on monstrous murdery musicals! Since we’re celebrating December as End of Days month here at Nightmare, tonight’s pick is 2017’s Anna and the Apocalypse.
Anna and the Apocalypse is a musical horror comedy Christmas movie based on a 2010 short film called Zombie Musical. You might be thinking that that’s a lot of genres to blend together, and you’d be right! Luckily, Anna and the Apocalypse strikes a good balance of the all these different elements to produce a well-rounded mashup. Written by Alan McDonald and the late Ryan McHenry, and directed by John McPhail, the film debuted at Fantastic Fest in 2017 before getting a wide release in late 2018.
THE SHORT VERSION
Anna is a a high school senior (or seventh year, or whatever the British version of your last year of school is) and she’s planning a big trip for after she graduates! Unfortunately, her dad strongly opposes this plan, she’s having some boy drama, and now she has to deal with a full-blown zombie apocalypse! At least she’s got friends like investigative student reporter Steph, lovebirds Lisa and Chris, and her annoying best friend (who’s in love with her), John. What will happen to the small town of Little Haven when the dead walk the earth? Will Anna ever get to go on her big trip? Find out in Anna and the Apocalypse!
GORE AND SCORE
The music of Anna and the Apocalypse is generally pretty poppy and upbeat, closer to the High School Musical sound than orchestral Sondheim or 70’s rock’n’roll. This is most evident in the song Hollywood Ending, a big number early on where all the kids take turns singing about why they’re unhappy. It’s less evident in The Fish Wrap, a 39-second song in which two students dressed as penguins rap about how much they love to eat fish. Though to be fair, I never saw High School Musical, so maybe they had a penguin rap too. Other notable selections from the Anna and the Apocalypse soundtrack include Lisa‘s big break It’s That Time Of Year, a hypersexual lounge song, Anna and John‘s duet Turning My Life Around, where both characters are wearing headphones and completely oblivious to the zombie mayhem happening around them (eventually culminating in a graveyard dance party), and Nothing’s Gonna Stop Me Now, in which the bad guy of the movie gets to sing and he kinda sounds like John Kassir!
Unfortunately, I need to take this time to address something. This applies to all musicals, but especially the horror ones: I’m begging writers to stop having tough characters sing about how badass and rough-and-tumble they are. It comes off super hokey basically 100 percent of the time. Otherwise, the music of Anna and the Apocalypse is great!
The star of the show is, unsurprisingly, Ella Hunt as Anna. She carries the film as a triple threat, and he dance moves and dramatic scenes are excellent. Further props go to Marli Siu as Lisa for being the best singer in the movie and Sarah Swire as Steph for being the funniest. Finally, it wouldn’t be a musical comedy zombie movie without the zombies, and Anna and the Apocalypse serves up some inventive kills in this arena! The gore effects aren’t always great (as a culture, we should denounce CGI blood splatter), but when it works, it works. I was pleasantly surprised with how many things I hadn’t seen before were packed into a 2017 zombie movie.
Anna and the Apocalypse is a lot of fun, and it’s worthy of a spot on your yearly holiday horror watchlist. Not to say you have to watch something that isn’t a slasher movie with a Santa Claus as the killer, but if you wanna break it up a little bit you can’t go wrong with this zombie comedy musical. Anna and the Apocalypse is available for streaming on Hulu and Amazon Prime Video, but if you prefer physical media you can pick it up on DVD or Blu-ray. You can also pick up the soundtrack on vinyl, with some very slick cover art. This movie would make a great Christmas gift for the person in your life who’s always saying “I wish musicals had more zombies, and horror comedies had more dancing, and all movies had characters dressed as penguins rapping about how much they love fish.” We all have that one friend!
Are you a zombie, begging for your chance to step into the spotlight and sing your heart out? Let us know over on Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and the Horror Fiends of Nightmare on Film Street Facebook page. For more reviews, recommendations, and last-minute gift ideas, stay tuned to Nightmare on Film Street.