A Christmas zombie musical? There’s no way that can work.
Anyone going into Anna and the Apocalypse can expect a good amount of silliness and laughs based on that premise, but the viewers may be taken aback by some heavy moments and well-executed character development.
Anna Shepherd will soon graduate secondary school and struggles with her father’s disappointment that she plans to travel abroad instead of attending university. When a zombie epidemic threatens her small town at Christmas time, Anna and her friends fight, sing and dance their way through the horde to save their parents
One of the gimmicks that makes this movie so delightful are the many scenes of juxtaposition. Our heroine might be singing a heartfelt song about the struggles of growing up while she fails to notice her neighborhood falling into chaos, with horrific car crashes and fires erupting in the background. Her best friend could be belting out a forlorn solo about how hopelessly in love he is with Anna as reanimated corpses shuffle by.
The songs have a generic pop sound, but are used well throughout the movie. “Hollywood Ending” is originally about adolescent angst, claiming that “love’s not like the books or movies or songs” and there is “no such thing as a Hollywood ending,” but is repurposed later to imply that these children are woefully unprepared to fight for their lives and there’s no guarantee they’ll make it through. “Soldier at War” is comedic and depicts a teenage boy who at first has fun playing the hero for his friends, but later the melody reemerges as a haunting echo of his former attitude.
The cast was exceptional, with Ella Hunt delivering a charismatic performance as Anna. Sarah Swire plays Steph, an aspiring social justice journalist who finds herself fighting for her life with a group of kids she barely calls friends. Swire, who also was the lead choreographer for the project, gives the film refreshing queer representation while managing to not make her orientation a key plot point. It should also be noted that while Anna has two potential love interests in the film, who she conveys great chemistry with, Steph does not fall into the stereotype the lesbian with a hopeless crush on the straight main character. Steph never expresses any romantic interest in Anna or any of her other comrades.
The film was directed by John McPhail and written by Alan McDonald and Ryan McHenry, based off McHenry’s short film Zombie Musical. McHenry lost his battle with cancer two years before the full length movie was released.
Anna and the Apocalypse received a limited theater release in the United States and Canada. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray, and is available for streaming on Hulu and Amazon Prime.