Anna and the Apocalypse is available to rent or buy now.
What do you get if you cross Shaun of the Dead with High School Musical and the classic coming-of-age comedy/drama template? The answer is, of course, the outstanding, emotional and lively zombie musical that is Anna and the Apocalypse. Largely ignored on its release in 2018, John McPhail’s spectacular slice of horror and musical comedy has now become a worthy Christmas classic. One that many, including me, count as a must-see Christmas film. However, I am continually surprised by the number of people I meet who have not seen this movie. So let’s put that right from today because Anna and the Apocalypse is not only one of the best alternative Christmas movies of the past ten years, it’s also a damn fine musical that should by now have found a place on the west-end stage.
The brainchild of the late Scottish filmmaker Ryan McHenry, who in 2011 wrote and directed a short film titled Zombie Musical. The feature film Anna and the Apocalypse was years in the making, with its premiere sadly arriving after McHenry’s death from osteosarcoma, a form of cancer, in 2015. However, despite this tragic loss early in the film’s development, writer Alan McDonald, producers Naysun Alae-Carew and Nicholas Crum and singer-songwriters Tommy Reilly and Roddy Hart were determined not to let McHenry’s vision fade. And by 2016, the creative ensemble was complete as director John McPhail joined the team following his first movie, Where Do We Go From Here? The result was a toe-tapping, funny and delightfully gory slice of festive magic.
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It’s Christmas in the small Scottish town of Little Haven, but for Anna (Ella Hunt), festive cheer is hard to come by as she clashes with her dad (Mark Benton) about her post-school plans. Anna wants to travel across Australia, escaping the small town she calls home, while her dad wants her to go to university. However, as news of a strange new virus hits every TV and newspaper, Anna is unaware that her plans will have to wait as the world begins to crumble.
At its core, Anna and the Apocalypse is a classic coming-of-age story. After all, it gives us Anna’s supportive best friend, John (Malcolm Cumming), who holds a secret crush. Meanwhile, student activist Steph (Sarah Swire) has been dumped in Little Haven by her globe-trotting parents. Then we have aspiring filmmaker Chris (Christopher Leveaux), who loves horror, and the classic school bully Nick (Ben Wiggins), who Anna despises and fancies in equal measure. Finally, we have the classic villain of the piece, Headmaster Arthur Savage (Paul Kaye). Here the story follows a tried and tested template, as the young people realise they must fend for themselves in an adult world—the support their parents and grandparents once offered, no longer accessible. However, Anna and the Apocalypse never falls into tried and tested tropes as it laces its gore, humour, and music with a distinctly Scottish charm.
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From the outset, Anna and the Apocalypse makes it evident that there is no such thing as a Hollywood ending, and my god does it deliver on this promise in spades. While its humour, music and comic book gore keep things upbeat, it also has a profoundly emotional centre that may well lead you to shed a few tears among the tinsel, blood and snow. As a result, Anna and the Apocalypse appeals to zombie horror fans and musical theatre lovers in equal measure while also finding a place in the heart of those who love dark comedy. The result is an alternative festive delight that only gets stronger with every viewing. So my advice is simple, watch it now, for this is one Christmas movie that will forever find a place in your heart.