Starring: Ella Hunt, Malcolm Cumming, Sarah Swire, Christopher Leveaux, Ben Wiggins, Marli Siu, Mark Benton, Paul Kaye
Director: John McPhail
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Rating: R for Typical Zombie Gore and a Disturbingly Sniveling Principal
Release Date: November 30, 2018 (Limited)
How has it taken us this long to have a major zombie movie musical? Some quick research proves that there actually are previous examples of this genre mashup, as the Disney Channel Original Zombies debuted earlier this year, and Z: A Zombie Musical, about three nuns attacked by a zombie dog, apparently also exists. But as far as I can tell, Anna and the Apocalypse is the first major theatrical release in which fending off the undead is interspersed with characters belting out original tunes. And in light of the genre’s popularity and how it has already allowed comedy and romance to seep through in the likes of Shaun of the Dead and Warm Bodies, that just seems fundamentally incorrect. But luckily for Anna and the Apocalypse, zombie ubiquity means that setting the living dead loose on a sleepy little song-happy British town around Christmas makes more or less perfect sense.
What Anna and the Apocalypse has most in its favor is a winning lead performance from Ella Hunt as Anna, who is trying to survive the holidays as she deals with the craziness at her high school, some boy troubles, and a falling out with her dad. What it lacks is the thematic heft that has uplifted so many zombie films above their slash-and-splatter foundations. There might be an attempt at that sort of message, perhaps regarding how the pain of how friendships and familial relationships evolve as you become a young adult are akin to the visceral nature of chopping up zombie brains. But it comes across as a clash of two different stories bumping against each other. They work well enough on their own, but they don’t really deepen each other, although nor do they undercut each other.
At least the songs are satisfactorily rousing, though they somewhat surprisingly tend more towards the “life is changing so fast” variety rather than the “world is going to hell” style. This particular musical agnostic found them decently toe-tapping and not too overwhelming. The champ of the soundtrack, for my money, is the saucy “Santa Baby”-esque talent show number that includes lyrics like “My chimney needs a good unblocking.” If you’re okay with someone getting holiday-based innuendo in your zombie movie, you should be pleased.
Anna and the Apocalypse is Recommended If You Like: Warm Bodies, High school talent shows with actual talent, A cozy British sensibility
Grade: 3 out of 5 EvacSelfies