New for the Holidays, a horror-musical-comedy!
By Liz Lopez
There are many holiday films that are considered “classics” and the stories range from A-Z with the setting in the month of December leading up to gift – giving time. Speaking of “Z,” well “Anna and the Apocalypse” is a zombie film featuring high school students in the lead that had the World Premiere at the 2017 Fantastic Fest. Imagine a high school full of teens looking forward to their futures, stuck with a crazed school administrator who insists on musical they don’t really care about and the world falling apart all around them because of a virus or plague that causes people to become zombies. This combo may not appeal to all people who like holiday films, but if someone is open – minded about comedy and loves musicals, here is a crowd-pleaser for them and those other film fans who are perhaps tired of what has been on the “telly” for decades by now. Ryan McHenry wrote and directed the 2011 short film “Zombie Musical,” upon which “Anna and the Apocalypse” is based. McHenry is credited as co-writer of the screenplay with Alan McDonald and the film is directed by John McPhail, as McHenry passed away in 2015. The film is dedicated to his memory. The creativity and performances are such that I would highly recommend viewing the film at least once. There are some real comedic moments!
The film begins with what appears to be a typical teen movie – similar to what we’ve seen lately – and the viewer may begin to wonder how predictable this film really is. We meet Anna (Ella Hunt), a senior at Little Haven High and her best friend John (Malcolm Cumming), riding to school in the car driven by her widowed father, Tony (Mark Benton), who works as the school’s janitor. She also changes the channel on the news reported on the radio and John drops a secret in front of Anna’s dad. They have a huge falling out. Typical family drama, right, but the screenwriters elevate it from that.
While inside the school campus and in the school yard, students make their feelings known via music and dance. John is secretly in love with Anna, and dislikes her ex, Nick (Ben Wiggins), who thinks she still has a thing for him. Steph (Sarah Swire) is a very aware and ahead of her time young woman who has been left to spend the holiday alone by rich parents leaving for Mexico. Chris (Christopher Leveaux) enjoys video work and is stuck like glue to his sweet love, Lisa (Marli Siu). She has a starring role in the school musical directed by the school tyrant, ooops, the “headmaster” Mr. Savage (Paul Kaye).
Kaye is completely dedicated in his role of Mr. Savage who wants to have the world know how special he really is (only in his own mind). The actor has many scenes to show us how crazed Savage is and also his inappropriate choices for the musical. He has Lisa dressed in a bright blue gown to perform a song with lewd lyrics I won’t repeat here, while making gestures with the microphone stand. Also note there are bare-chested boys in shorts dancing on the stage while she sings– all in front of parents and other members of the community.
In typical current technology use today, Anna and John are wearing headphones, sing and dance on their way to school the next morning, blind and deaf to the zombie apocalypse in their own front yards. The bliss is short lived when they do not have cell service and see what is in the playground. The survival mode kicks in and so do the zombie kills, using the most available resources at hand as they make their way to the bowling alley and school where they think they will be safe and Anna’s father would be.
By the time Anna finds her father, he is not in the best place, given the mistreatment by the bully tyrant who is trying to survive zombies who invaded the school. I don’t want to spoil all the ways the zombies are killed, but I guarantee that it is hard for me to view a candy cane decoration the same, as much as I love them!
The music and lyrics are by Roddy Hart and Tommy Reilly, who both create catchy tunes for this production. Actress Sarah Swire is also a choreographer and created the film’s excellent dance routines. The impressive work in both fields should certainly garner her more work in upcoming films.
“Anna and the Apocalypse” has an ending I won’t reveal, but some viewers will be misty-eyed before wondering what those surviving the apocalypse around the world will do next.
The film is rated R and has a run time of one hour and 47 minutes. “Anna and the Apocalypse” opens theatrically in the U.K. and U.S. Friday, November 30, 2018.
Source: Orion Pictures, Fantastic Fest