Hey Anna, are you ok?
When I heard that a brand-new Christmas musical was hitting cinemas this month, I thought “fantastic, a little White Christmas-esqe magic for the soul”. Only later, when reading the synopsis for Anna and the Apocalypse, did my eyes register the word ‘zombie’. However, I absolutely, positively love a musical. All singing, all dancing, all zombie toe-tapping fun? You bet your bottom dollar I’m there.
Anna and the Apocalypse opens with ominous music at the opening credits, letting us know that a sleepy Scottish town called Little Haven isn’t about to be a haven no more. We quickly meet high schooler Anna (played marvellously by Cold Feet’s Ella Hunt), telling her father (Mark Benton) that she doesn’t want to go to university, actually. Instead, she wants to take a gap yah and go backpacking in Australia. But, before you give a massive eye roll at the teen angstiness of it all, just wait.
It wouldn’t be a teen film without a motley crew and boy, does Anna have one! Chiefly, her best friend John (Malcom Cumming), who is as much of a fan of out-there Christmas jumpers as he is Anna herself: she’s forced to firmly march him back to the friend zone whenever he tries to escape from it. Then there’s Steph (Sarah Swire), a socially-conscious American lesbian, cruelly and hilariously nicknamed ‘Annie Lennox’ by supposed school heartthrob Nick (Ben Wiggins), who – as you may have guessed – has unfinished business with our protagonist. Yes readers, teen heartbreak at the ready.
Once director John McPhail has set up the dynamics between the characters, we are thrown headfirst into a world of zombies galore. But the big musical numbers don’t stop, as Anna, totally oblivious to the absolute gory, bloody carnage happening around her (those are some serious noise-cancelling headphones) belts out a corker. When our girl finally notices that the dead are rising from the grave, she grabs an oversized candy cane and unleashes total badassery upon them. Think decapitations, left, right and centre!
Sitting through the film I thought what is actually Christmassy about this (apart from the jumper and couple songs, obviously)? The answer is the message. Yes, it’s undeniably silly. No, it didn’t need zombies getting walloped with toilet seats to make that clear. But you get to discover gems along the way. From Steph rallying for the homeless, to literal human sacrifices, and familial love, it’ll warm you up good and proper this festive season!
A personal highlight: a banger of a track performed by Lisa (Maril Siu), rivalling Mean Girls’ Regina George in terms of inappropriateness. In fact, the soundtrack as a whole is undeniably fabulous. I’m a harsh critic of musicals not having catchy songs (LaLa Land, I’m looking at you), but Anna and the Apocalypse doesn’t have a single rubbish one.
I guess all that’s left to answer is this: is Anna and the Apocalypse the comedy gory musical you have all been waiting for? Well, no. Because no one has been waiting for a comedy musical with zombies. But it still definitely deserves a watch this Christmas, because this film is fun. Really fun. In fact, it’s such a great, gory, catchy soundtrack-toting, message-carrying cracker of a Christmas film, that you just may find yourself watching it every year! And though it features a song with the lyrics there is “no Hollywood ending”, I’m certain there will be for standout star Ella Hunt.
Image: Blazing Griffin / Orion Pictures
Mayran Yusuf is a film critic who loves nothing better than a good scroll of @TheShaderoom on Instagram and a sucker for any drama that BBC flings out. Series link at the ready!