Anna and the Apocalypse review: We’ve seen zombie horror-comedies before; we’ve seen grandiose musicals; who doesn’t love a good Christmas flick too; with director John McPhail’s directorial debut they’re all coming together for an epic zombie-horror-comedy-musical set at Christmas.
Anna and the Apocalypse review by Awais Irfan.
Christmas is arriving in the small town of Little Haven and Anna (Ella Hunt) and her best friend John (Malcolm Cumming) are preparing for the forthcoming holiday season. However, when a zombie apocalypse comes knocking, Anna and her friends will have to fight and sing their way to the one place they know will be safe: their high school. But, along the way, they’ll have to reunite with their loved ones and confront their feelings and friendships – as well as lots of zombies – head on.
This is essentially Anna and the Apocalypse in a nutshell. If it sounds familiar, that’s because it is – a hodgepodge of similar films and ideas (namely Edgar Wright’s horror-comedy and zombie film landmark Shaun of the Dead); the writing doesn’t bring much unique to the table and there’s very much a sense of “been there, done that” looming large over this. As a result, many will find themselves turned away by Anna; however, despite its formulaic and bare-bones approach, it’s still tons of fun. McPhail wears his heart on his sleeve and there’s an infectious charm injected within his debut that keeps it a pulpy, enrapturing affair that will have you grinning for a solid 110 minutes.
The music is decent, with some songs proving catchier than others, but the numbers themselves are impressively constructed; the sequences are grandiose and colourful and very much channel their inner-La La Land and Willy Wonka well. The film ultimately moves in a way that sets up one sequence/zombie faceoff after the other and whilst the narrative and emotion are disposable and thin in this regard, there is plenty of good, gory, violent and exuberant fun to be had. It’s a nice-looking film with commendable cinematography and a superb use of costume and production design and practical effects really bring it to life in a lavish, colourful way. The humour is pretty good throughout too, often hit-or-miss and never gut-busting but funny when it works and the use of the Christmas setting works in adding an endearing, festive nature to this film that will make it worth adding to your list of yearly Christmas flicks to watch come December.
But where Anna and the Apocalypse really shines is in its cast and its myriad of angsty teens; it’s very much an ensemble piece and Anna’s plethora of friends along for the ride – Sarah Swire; Ben Wiggins; Christopher Leveaux – are all terrific but it’s the Anna-John dynamic that is easily the most engaging and Malcolm Cumming and Ella Hunt work brilliantly off one another. There’s relatability to these characters and their camaraderie is endearing and fun and they’re an easy bunch to root for amongst all the zombie chaos. And they can sing! But this is Ella Hunt’s film to steal and the young actress is a tour-de-force here; her character is badass and cool yet equally as charming and heartfelt and Hunt’s performance is tough on the outside but warm as well as a female protagonist that shines at a time when we need to start seeing more characters of this nature. Yes, it’s an ensemble piece and the cast is good together. But this is Anna’s story. And Hunt is awesome.
Whilst Anna and the Apocalypse may be a mishmash of a variety of different films, and the construction of the narrative can be a little weak and emotionally uninspired, there is tons and tons of enjoyment to be had with this film. It’s funny and charming, full of enough gore and impressive sequences to keep you entertained. Anna is quite the ride, anchored by an endearing ensemble and a killer central performance from Ella Hunt that makes this just bloody good fun.
Anna and the Apocalypse review by Awais Irfan, July 2018.
Anna and the Apocalypse was reviewed at teh 2018 Edinburgh International Film Festival.