A zombie… musical comedy. Well, I can safely say that I’ve never seen this kind of movie before, so… color me curious, y’all.
The story looks pretty vague, set during a zombie apocalypse and it’s fun.
Here’s the cast. Starring as the titular character is Ella Hunt, known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of, and the upcoming SUMMER NIGHT (2018). In support, we have Malcolm Cummings (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of), Sarah Swire (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of), Ben Wiggins (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of, and the upcoming MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS ), Paul Kaye (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of), and Christopher Leveaux (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of).
Now for the crew. Directing, we have John McPhail, known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of. Co-writing the screenplay are Alan McDonald (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of) and the late Ryan McHenry (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of). Rest in peace, McHenry. Co-composing the score are Roddy Hart and Tommy Reilly, both making their composing debut; congrats, guys. The cinematographer is Sara Deane, known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of. Finally, the editor is Mark Hermida, known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of.
Overall, this could be fun. I’m not hearing much buzz about it outside of cardboard theater standees, so I have no idea what to expect. I’m going in with hopeful apathy, if that makes sense.
This is my honest opinion of: ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE
Set in Scotland. Anna Shephard (Ella Hunt) is about to graduate high school and looks forward to traveling to Australia before going to college, despite her father’s reservations against the idea. Despite her life not going the way she wants, nor getting the support from her father that she wants, Anna is determined to make the best of her final days in school. However, a sudden zombie attack puts her plans on hold as she and her best friend John (Malcolm Cummings) try to survive as they make their way to the school, which is theoretically supposed to be a solid stronghold against the zombies with more of their schoolmates.
It took some time, but I think that this movie is a lot of fun. Not great, but I think I found a new Christmas classic for myself and is likely going to generate a cult following.
When I left the theater, I thought to myself, “Eh, that wasn’t bad, but it’s not nearly as fun as I had hoped.” I thought the first three or four songs had little to do with either Christmas or zombies. In fact, I was quite frustrated at how slow the movie was to getting to the whole reason why anyone would watch it. The first song, “Break Away” seemed to be just about a standard song about wondering if there was more that this provincial life. The second song, “Hollywood Ending” seemed like it was pure fluff about… well, nothing but to be not-so-subtle about who was going to eventually die. Again, didn’t have anything to do with zombies or Christmas. The third song, however, finally was on topic. It was about Christmas, “It’s That Time of Year” which is laced in innuendos and is, admittedly, quite funny. Still, the song was thrown in from nowhere, featuring a character that doesn’t have that much screen time, and was almost a pity song to remind audiences that this is a holiday movie. The fourth song, “Turning My Life Around” almost had me. The song itself just seemed like a song about making the best of a day, all the while a zombie attack is happening behind the characters singing unaware of the carnage. The fifth song, “Human Voice” seemed to be just about missing people they loved. In context of the movie, it makes enough sense, but if you pulled a random person off the street to listen to the song itself, they wouldn’t guess it was in a zombie-apocalypse movie. “It wasn’t until the sixth song, “Soldier At War” where we finally get an actual song and dance number about zombie killing.
Sorry to go on and on about the songs, but I have a point. To be fair toward the movie, the songs are quite catchy, despite my original perceived lack of anything to do with the movie. Full disclosure, I have the soundtrack saved to my YoutubeRed account and have been listening to it nonstop for the past week or so since the initial release. But upon listening to the lyrics more carefully, I learned that the lyrics did in fact have subtle references to being undead, zombies being used as a metaphor for aimless people, and so on and so forth. After making that realization, I looked back on my experience and decided that the movie was far better than I gave it credit for. Is there a mental condition in which you can’t understand lyrics to songs, no matter how clearly spoken they are? Doesn’t matter if I’m listening to death metal or country, I can’t hear lyrics to save my life. Anyway, point is, pick up the soundtrack. It’s bouncy and fun. I am still critical that “Human Voice” is the least memorable and catchy song, and both “Hollywood Ending” and “That Time of Year” are pure filler songs, but they’re still fun songs in of themselves.
Moving on. How are the characters? Well, I would say that the characters are actually fairly thin. I mean, I described a song about how these characters are basically standard dreamer-characters, but I would argue that having deep characters isn’t the goal of this flick. This is more of a showcase of actors who can push past the limitations of the writing. And I am happy to say that is most definitely the case. Hunt is absolutely phenomenal and brings a truck-full of energy to both her more dramatic and comedic moments in the film. She’s a great singer, a fun dancer, which is especially prominent in “Turning My Life Around.” Not to undersell her in the rest of the flick, but that number was her at her best. While everyone is pretty great in their own right, I have to give a big hand to Paul Kaye as Arthur Savage, the vice (?) principal, or whatever he was. On the surface, Savage is just a mean teacher who hates teenagers, but the movie does the sensible thing of driving him to pure madness and embracing the zombie apocalypse, labeling it a cleanse of humanity. He’s pretty sadistically fun to watch.
How about the humor? It’s… not bad. Nothing is downright bad, but it does fluctuate between jokes that simply don’t land, and a solid chuckle. Though I will mention some damn dark humor that had me rolling. There’s a quick moment when you see a mom pushing a stroller along and runs away from oncoming zombies… completely leaving her baby behind… which gets eaten. It happens off screen, so this movie doesn’t go full MOTHER! (2017), but it’s so bizarrely mean-spirited that I couldn’t help but laugh. Also, there’s a fun commentary about millennials who, instead of trying to survive the attacks, are spending their time taking selfies with zombies. Pretty sure it’s Anna who says, “Well, we deserve to die.” In the same scene, they’re talking about celebrities they think are zombies. John proclaims that it doesn’t matter if Ryan Gosling is alive or dead, he’s still cool, but John refuses to believe that Taylor Swift is dead, and that “Tay Tay is okay!” Also, let me just say, I think the most ingenious way to protect yourself is the use of an inflatable ball-pit. Life lessons, y’all.
But I can’t keep singing praises. I do have my issues.
Even though the music is better than I originally thought, it’s still true that it takes too long to get to the zombies themselves. Twenty minutes, at least, in a movie that’s less than ninety minutes long. It needed to pace itself quicker. Take out “Hollywood Ending,” and that might have been enough. However, until the attack happens, you wouldn’t even guess that this was a zombie movie.
I would have assumed that this movie would have used cliches more out of uniform for the genre, I would never have guessed that Anna would completely dismiss the existence of zombies, despite them being right in front of her, as well as a severed head that’s still alive. The only way this could possibly work is if your movie is set in a world where zombies are not a thing, which this movie clearly isn’t. No character should be this afraid of zombies, especially the slow-moving variety, in a world that acknowledges them. Thank God for “Soldier At War,” or I might dock this movie that point I originally wanted to.
Too many character connections didn’t amount to much. Prior to the zombie attacks, I think it’s implied that Anna and Lisa (Marli Siu) are supposed to be best friends, but as soon as the zombie attacks happen, she barely ever mentions Lisa. Granted, she’s more worried about her dad, so maybe this chica’s got her priorities straight, but still, a quick ‘lil “Oh no, Lisa, don’t die, I love you, bitch,” or whatever women say to each other, would be welcomed. Can you tell that I’m single? And there’s a huge deal made with Steph finding Lisa and the now-dead grandma of Chris’ (Christopher Leveaux) and the movie expects me to feel bad for him. I would, but Chris and his grandma share zero screen time together. I feel more for him and Lisa, as both characters show their respective charms and likability. Cut the grandma character out and you miss absolutely nothing.
Overall, I enjoy this movie. It’s nothing great or spectacular, but as I previously mentioned, it’s primed for a cult following and I’d be lying if I wasn’t a part of that cult, albeit in a looser sense. It’s got a seriously fun soundtrack, it a unique addition to the zombie genre, and has a great selection of actors who deserve to go on to more prominent and bigger projects. Actually, Ben Wiggins, who plays Nick in the movie, will be featured in the upcoming MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS, so that’s one down, an entire cast left to go. It’s by no means a perfect movie, as some of the song and dance numbers are clearly filler and meant to remind you that this is a musical, but it doesn’t cripple the film’s enjoyable and likable nature. As a recommendation, I highly endorse it if you can find it, as it has a fairly limited release. Check your local AMC’s and if you find it, you’re in for a bloody good time.
My honest rating for ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE: 4/5
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