On the Tenth Day – Anna and the Apocalypse Hits the Right Note in its Zombie Mix of Horror, Comedy, and Musical

At this point, we’ve probably just every on zombies imaginable. Zombie heist movies (Army of the Dead), zombie found footage (Diary of the Dead), zombie romance (Warm Bodies), zombie comedies (Shaun of the Dead) – the subgenre has nearly exhausted itself. But creative directors still find ways to breath some life into the shuffling monsters. Several years ago someone had the truly unique idea of making a zombie musical. Though Anna and the Apocalypse didn’t light the box office on fire, critics were generally pretty high on results. And it’s the sort of movie that eventually finds cult status.

Synopsis

In the small Scottish village Little Haven, high school student Anna dreams of travelling the world. Those dreams dismay her widowed father who would rather his daughter go to university. But father and daughter don’t have time to settle their differences. One morning Anna wakes up and find the village infested with zombies. Now Anna and her mates must fight and sign their way through town to find and save their families.

Anna and the Apocalypse Mostly Succeeds in Mixing Multiple Genres

Anna and the Apocalypse sets up a difficult task for itself. Just horror and comedy alone are tough to mix well. And director John McPhail includes a musical to make things even more challenging. Yet somehow McPhail successfully pulls it off. Arguably, the comedy is probably the weakest element, which isn’t to say it’s missing or weak. Rather the comedic bits call back to other zombie comedies, feeling less fresh here. Nevertheless, Anna and the Apocalypse gets its zombie action right with a handful of standout tense moments. Both a bowling alley scene and the entire final act are among the best we’ve seen in the subgenre. Most importantly, the musical bits are absolutely fun and accomplish exactly what they intended – Anna and the Apocalypse stands on its own.

Most importantly, the musical bits are absolutely fun and accomplish exactly what they intended – Anna and the Apocalypse stands on its own.

Despite the familiarly with the subgenre’s conventions – which Anna and the Apocalypse dutifully follows – it still manages to be emotionally compelling. But it’s not the music this time that hooks you. Even if we know the scenarios and character conflicts that inevitably turn up, McPhail successfully makes us care for his characters. Extra time spent with each of these characters allows for some emotional investment. Moreover, Alan McDonald and Ryan McHenry’s screenplay isn’t afraid to pull the rug out from under us. There’s more than a few heartbreaks and it’s a testament to the storytelling that these scenes evoke those feelings.

Anna and the Apocalypse Introduces a Character Worthy of Being in the Title

Most of the cast is fresh and unknown. Lead star Ella Hunt is one of the few performers who came into Anna and the Apocalypse with some film credits including the big screen update of Les Misérables. As the title character, Hunt excels in the role as she balances early precociousness with a steely resolve. In other words, Anna easily becomes a character worth cheering for. McDonald and McHenry’s screenplay also gives Hunt a fun character arc that allows Anna to grow into a hero reminiscent of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. All of the supporting players are uniformly excellent with Sarah Swire standing out.

McDonald and McHenry’s screenplay also gives Hunt a fun character arc that allows Anna to grow into a hero reminiscent of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

What truly helps Anna and the Apocalypse create fresh conflict is Paul Kaye’s (Dracula Untold, Game of Thrones) antagonist school headmaster, Arthur Savage. Zombies may be a popular horror villains, but there’s a reason the majority of good zombie movies position humanity as the true source of evil – the undead don’t have much personality. And Kaye’s cruel headmaster – and his petty need to control other people – offers a surprising layer to the musical horror. It’s Kaye who adds the final act’s sad shock and sets up the entertaining climax. And Kaye appears to be having a lot of fun with the role.

Anna and the Apocalypse Belongs in Your Christmas Watchlist

If there’s any justice in the world, Anna and the Apocalypse will find future audiences and become an alternative to Christmas classics. On one hand, the musical numbers are well done and rousing – most importantly, the add to the story. In addition, the zombie action includes a handful of suspenseful moments, an excellent climax, and enough undead blood and guts for horror fans. If the middle act comes close to lagging, McPhail makes certain that those quiet moments have later emotional payoffs.

THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: A-

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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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