ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE Review: 9 out of 10 (A Christmas Musical with Brains)
ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE is a film that shouldn’t exist. And yet, it does.
I am so glad it does.
directed by John McPhail and with a screenplay by Alan McDonald and Ryan McHenry based on McHenry's 2010 BAFTA-winning short Zombie Musical. Yes, you read that right—a zombie musical. But that isn’t all, there’s more! This zombie invasion takes place at Christmas—making this a Christmas movie too. And as unlikely a mashup as that is, this film is far more entertaining than anyone could expect. Imagine if HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL had a SHAUN OF THE DEAD sequel that took place over the holidays. If your imagination can stretch that far, you begin to get a vision for what this film offers.
In short, just days before Christmas, a deadly pandemic sweeps through the small town of Little Haven and forces Anna and her friends to face a growing horde of zombies. But because—teenagers—they are alternately joyful or angsty, so they break out into song from time to time in between moments of gore and terror.
And I will say it now, Lin-Manuel be damned. I would venture that the soundtrack to this film is better than the upcoming Mary Poppins sequel by a long shot. And the real brilliance here is that the songs really don’t deal at all with zombies. On their own in a vacuum, these are just songs about loneliness, love, and having a bit of faith around Christmas. “Break Away” “Hollywood Ending” and “Turning My Life Around” are damn catchy and memorable songs. Also, penguins rapping. “It’s That Time of Year” is my new favorite Christmas song and I could only hope it might make its way into department store holiday playlists.
And yet, the film also completely works as a zombie horror film. Yes, it is a bit paint-by-numbers on the genre, but there are a few plot twists and surprises you won’t see coming either.
So yes—it works as a Christmas movie.
It works as a zombie flick.
It works as a teen musical.
ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE has the making of a true cult classic. It is one of those films that in a few years around the holidays circles of friends will be looking at the *one* in their group who haven’t seen it yet—and immediately drag them off to show it to them while they watch it together. Don’t be that ONE. Be the one who is in the know about this gem of a film. Go see it and be one of the ones that can say you saw it and discovered it. You will be glad you did.