Anna and the Apocalypse
“Shaun of the Dead meets Glee.”
That’s the magickal tagline, right there, the one that probably sold the movie in the first place. But is it accurate? Yeah, I’d say so. This movie is equal parts comedy, musical, and horror. It does not spare the gore just as it does not spare the high notes. Whether this is your cup of tea or not is another matter, one we’ll break down a bit. But for all the splash and excitement the movie generates, what might be lost is the very tough and tender heart at its center. This movie is all soul and guts and pop music.
Anna is in high school, close to graduating, as Christmas time rolls around. She’s got big plans for after she graduates, and they include travelling the world, not attending university like her father wishes. She has a best male friend who swoons over her, a lesbian pal, another couple of geeky friends, and an ex who’s the bad-boy type. They all have an asshole teacher who very much reminds me of the teachers in Pink Floyd’s The Wall. In the midst of this, a zombie apocalypse breaks out, finding Anna and her friends separated but trying to unite, fighting to get back to their school where her father and others are stuck. While this is going on, they find time to sing and dance and stomp zombies.
First off, this is a fun film. The musical numbers not only work, but they’re catchy as hell and will get stuck in your head. They’re more like Grease, where they augment and move the action forward, rather than being mere asides. Much credit has to go to the composers (Roddy Hart and Tommy Reilly) and director John McPhail, for weaving them in so seamlessly. The natural reaction would be to groan when these set-pieces roll around, but instead, you find yourself looking forward to them. Also, the banter between the friends feels real and vibrant, drawing you in to the characters and making you care for them. This pays real dividends later, as the stress of the situation makes itself more and more apparent.
Second, there’s gore a-plenty. If you’re a fan of the red stuff, you’ll be pleased. The zombies aren’t dispatched in too many unique ways (is this even possible anymore?) but the blood does flow, as do the brains and the guts. There is one particular head-knocker of a scene that involves two bowling balls, but I will leave the rest there so as not to spoil.
Mostly, this movie has grit. For all the bright colors and lovely dance sequences, when it comes time, the horror does pay off. As one song says, this isn’t a Hollywood ending. There are real stakes here, and when it comes time to cash in that check, this movie does so with much swagger. There is no shirking or pitter-patter. It gets down to business and breaks your heart, much in the same way as a movie like Train to Busan; it sneaks up on you.
So, if you hate musicals, you might not want to do this, but I would suggest you give it a try. You’ll find plenty of other things to make you happy. More than enough, actually. This film came out two years ago and is just now finally getting a streaming release on Amazon Prime and Hulu. If you’ve got one of the two, give it a view. Why this didn’t get a major theatrical release here in the States is a crime because this is one meant to be seen on the big screen with lots of speakers blasting. Looks like you’ll have to make-do with your own home system. So go crank it up, pop some popcorn, and have your heart stolen away.
Bonus: It’s a Christmas movie, so you can add this to your Horror Holidays viewing list.
Four Buckets of Blood out of Four
Kelly is the author of dozens of stories and dozens of reviews, he likes to write, he likes to read, he likes going to the movies, and he loves to laugh. He hails from the wilds of Kentucky and if you'd like to see more of his work, check out his website: www.kellymhudson.com