One of the best movies of 2018, “Anna and the Apocalypse” is a movie that’s destined to catch on with midnight audiences, as it begs for sing alongs from an enthusiastic audience. John McPhail’s zombie horror musical is a pastiche of the best from the genres it puts on the big screen, delivering what is one of the pleasing and creepiest zombie movies of the years. “Anna and the Apocalypse” manages to be both life affirming and a spectacularly vicious zombie movie at the same time, with some of the more entertaining musical numbers and sequences filmed in a long time.
Set in Little Haven, England, Anna Shephard finds herself at odds with her father Tony, the school janitor, as she decides to skip college in favor of traveling. Her dad has other plans for her as he orders her to continue her education. As he heads to her school to help attend to the Christmas show, Anna awakens the next morning oblivious to an ensuing zombie apocalypse. When she and her best friend John realize that the locals are all being turned in to flesh eating zombies, Anna decides to band with her schoolmates and fight her way back to school to check on her dad, who is stuck inside with zombies surrounding the building.
“Anna and the Apocalypse” is perfect fare for anyone that is looking for something out of the typical post apocalyptic fare. While at its core it’s a musical set during Christmas and a zombie apocalypse, it’s also about a group of people kind of finding their world falling apart around them and realizing that it’s time to move on to a bigger future. It’s also why the characters primarily sleep in a ball pit most of the film, because it’s that place that lets them stay young. There’s also the uncertainty of the future and how what’s ahead of us can be scary, and harrowing, but also kind of exhilarating, which is demonstrated in the final scene with Anna. That said while the overtones are there, “Anna and the Apocalypse” is a ton of fun with some raucous musical numbers, and great zombie carnage.
Writers Alan McDonald and Ryan McHenry build a very engaging group of heroes with Ella Hunt the absolute stand out in the cast. As the titular Anna, Hunt’s portrayal of the zombie fighting heroine is charming, sweet, and fierce, and her journey of redemption is often fantastic. I also very much enjoyed the subplots including Anna’s lovelorn friend John, and Chris who is anxiously trying to get to his ailing grandmother who is also stuck in the school. It works not only as a comedy and musical, but there’s so much great material as a zombie film, from gut munching, to lopped off heads, and some thick suspense. The lead up to the chaos is tense, especially in moments like an incident during the Christmas show, and one scene where Anna and Henry make snow angels. Once McPhail unleashes the zombie apocalypse, “Anna and the Apocalypse” hits the ground running and never shies away from the great zombie fodder.
Sadly, while the characters are richly drawn, the musical numbers leave a bit to be desired as I never found that any of the music stuck once the movie drew to a close. Meanwhile the makers obviously riff on some scenes from “Shaun of the Dead” including a moment where they have to sneak past a zombie horde, the first confrontation with a zombie, and Anna’s musical number as she sings oblivious to the carnage unfolding her around her. That said, “Anna and the Apocalypse” is a refreshing crowd pleaser, and I very much enjoyed it. John McPhail creates a marvelous horror comedy musical that will fit snugly with classics like “Shaun of the Dead,” and “Rocky Horror Picture Show” respectively.