Dir. John McPhail (2017)
Anna and her friends must fight their way through the zombie-infested town of Little Haven during Christmas.
For anyone who reads this site, it should come as no surprise that I don't generally give a damn what anyone else thinks about me. I don't mean that to come across as arrogant (though I certainly wouldn't deny the accusation), I mean it more in the way that I like what I like no matter how ridiculous it may seem. I love dad rock, those songs that you see middle-aged men bobbing their heads to in grocery stores. I love romantic comedies, what I view to be the last bastion of comedy in a world that seems afraid to make them anymore. And yes, I even love musicals. Not all musicals, mind you, but I know just about every word to most of the songs in Hairspray. It is in that vein that I decided to check out Anna and the Apocalypse this Christmas, a movie that I hadn't even heard about until earlier this year and decided would fit perfectly into this year's 13 Days of Christmas section.
Anna (Ella Hunt) plans on traveling abroad after high school rather than attending college, but a zombie outbreak in her town threatens to derail her dreams. She bands together with her best friend John (Malcolm Cumming) and her other friends Lisa (Marly Siu) and Chris (Christopher Leveaux), as well as American exchange student Steph (Sarah Swire) to try to fight off the zombies. Ex-beau Nick (Ben Wiggins) has his own plans, choosing to fight the zombies with extreme prejudice rather than just survive, and the quintet must fight their way through the town to get to the school, where evil headmaster Arthur Savage (Paul Kaye) has established a dictatorship in an attempt to keep the townspeople save from the growing horde of the undead.
I really enjoyed this one. It fits the musical horror category perfectly, reminding me a lot of the Once More, with Feeling episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It's a bizarre mishmash of The Walking Dead and High School Musical, funny at times and heartwarming at others, delivering both genuinely entertaining music as well as some fantastic effects. The actors did a fantastic job, and while most of the characters were relatively one-note, that's by design in a film that is a musical first and a horror comedy second. It always amazes me when actors are able to perform the songs as well as they do in this film, and they never disappoint.
It's nice to see a movie that can be so incredibly self-aware while also getting its point across as well as this one does. It's a sad story, one that eventually comes down to basically just Anna and the apocalypse in front of her. While any band of heroes fighting against a zombie swarm will inevitably lose some of its members, the extent of the damage to the town, as well as Anna's friend group, is incalculable. It's an interesting choice, one that continually raises the stakes beyond the happy ending that often accompanies movies like this, and it helps to set Anna apart from most of the films that have come before.
The film as a whole is incredibly well-done, from the opening music montage that finds Anna singing happily through the town as it goes to hell around her to Paul Kaye's nefariously evil performance as Headmaster Savage and his expressed hatred to the children under his command. It's so rare to see an indie horror with this level of commitment and production value, and it's refresing to get another Christmas horror movie that can fit in a yearly rotation of movies. If you get a chance to check this one out, I definitely recommend it, even if you're not usually a fan of musicals. If you are, this one is a Christmas treat that shouldn't be ignored.
Who this movie is for: Musical fans, Horror comedy aficionados, Music teachers
Bottom line: Anna and the Apocalypse is a delight, and a delightfully sad, horror comedy musical that encapsulates everything you love about Christmas and zombies. I'm a big fan of this film, and I just hate that it took me this long to watch it. Anna is streaming on Shudder, which is a great home for Christmas horror in general, and if you don't already have a subscription you should get on that. This one is going on my regular holiday rotation, and I think it may go in yours too once you check it out.