Zombie. Christmas. Musical. Just saying the trio together is enough to titillate any cinephile’s heart. Throw in some high school drama, millennial bashing and Scottish accents and you get “Anna and the Apocalypse”, an enjoyable film that manages to impress enough to overcome its shortcomings.
Anna (Ella Hunt) is just your ordinary high school senior: she wants to travel the world, she fights with her dad, Tony (Mark Benton), and her best friend, John (Malcolm Cumming), is secretly in love with her. Her fling Nick (Ben Wiggins) is a jerk jock while her other friends Lisa (Marli Siu) and Chris (Christopher Leveaux) are in love and weird. Steph (Sarah Swire) is outside of every group and desperate to make a name for herself while they are all under the dominion of the vicious Principal Savage (Paul Kaye) who loves nothing more than to torment them. Things go along at their normal pace with intermittent break out songs until the zombie apocalypse erupts right at Christmas. Now Anna and all her friends must sing, dance and kill their way to safety before the end of the world.
While the concept is golden, writers Alan McDonald and Ryan McHenry and director John McPhail also create a rather absorbing feature full of complete character arcs and deeper themes. Is Anna justified in trying to see the world or reckless because of her youth? Are millennials selfish and needing to be disciplined or disillusioned by technology and let down by our growing authoritarian world? What is the value of young love?
The serious approach to crafting a zombie Christmas musical is both an advantage and a detriment. On the one hand, the film tells a story that is mostly involving and heartfelt. On the other hand, you kind of wish the film took itself a little less seriously and just had fun with the whole singing while smashing zombies with giant candy canes. There are plenty of fun moments to be sure, but the film lacks that extra element of real charisma as with “Shaun of the Dead” to elevate it into classic territory. For the moment, it settles for very good.