Musicals have been a long stay of cinemas pretty much since cinemas were a thing. The genre had its heyday during the twenties through fifties, but popularity started to dwindle after that. Recent years have seen the genre undergo something of a resurgence however, and with the likes of Cats and Wicked in production, it doesn’t appear like it will be waning anytime soon.
Thankfully, musicals have moved on from the overtly saccharine features of earlier years, and now pretty much anything can be made into a musical. One such unlikely film is Anna and the Apocalypse, a Christmas-set musical with zombies. The BAFTA winning film arrives on home entertainment platforms on 8th April, and it got us thinking about our favourite musicals with bite, here are a few of them.
Anna and the Apocalypse
We’ll start with the newest addition to the list, Anna and the Apocalypse. The film screened at several festivals last year, including Glasgow and Frightfest, and earned adoration from the festival audiences. Described simply as Shaun of the Dead meets La La Land, Anna and the Apocalypse follows Anna and her college friends a couple of days before Christmas as a zombie epidemic breaks out. Rather than tell the story as a straight horror, or even a horror comedy, director John McPhail adds a musical twist, our characters bursting into song every now and again. There’s singing, dancing, and much zombie killing carnage in this utterly charming tale. Best song of the film has to go to ‘Hollywood Ending’, if for nothing other than its very catchy lyrics ‘Ooh whoa, ooh whoa, no such thing as a Hollywood Ending’ – damnit!
Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Once More with Feeling
Now Buffy the Vampire Slayer might be a television series, but it has one of the most iconic moments in musicals. The episode, titled ‘Once More with Feeling’ saw Sunnydale fall under the spell of a demon whom got his kicks by having people sing and dance until they literally exploded. Often seen as a kitsch, fun, episode that sparked a craze in other television shows, it also handles a lot of the season’s big events. With all the characters singing their secrets, we get the bombshells that Giles is leaving, and Buffy, recently brought back from beyond the grave, wasn’t in need of rescue. With so many brilliant songs, it’s hard to choose a favourite. Personally I have a soft spot for Spike’s Billy Idol impersonating ‘Rest in Peace’, the snippet of ‘The Mustard’ just begs for more, but it has to be ‘Walk Through the Fire’ that really gets you going ahead of the episode’s climax.
Repo! The Genetic Opera
After proving that he could sing in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Anthony Stewart Head went on to star in one of the more insane musical movies, Repo! The Genetic Opera. Directed by Saw II, III and IV helmer Darren Lynn Bousman, Repo! is an odd little film, but one that has amassed a devoted cult following. Also starring Alexa PenaVega and Paris Hilton, the story unfolds in the year 2056 during an epidemic of organ failures which has devastated the planet. The organ game is big business and leading corporation GeneCo sell organs on credit. There’s an epic late payment fee; should you fall behind, the organ gets repossessed. If you’ve not seen it, it certainly makes for an interesting, if not slightly brain-frying, viewing. Keep an eye out for Zydrate Anatomy.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
The original weird musical is of course The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Written by the film’s director, Jim Sharman, and starring Richard O’Brien, the film follows the newly engaged Brad and Janet. After breaking down, they stumble across a nearby castle, hosting the annual Transylvanian Convention. Their world is then turned upside-down as they encounter Dr. Frank-N-Furter, Riff Raff, and many more. The film is now an institution. Yearly screenings of the film, which encourage viewers to get dressed up as the characters – fishnets and all – get more successful year after year as more people discover this gem. The Rocky Horror Picture Show is jammed full of classic tunes, but the one that everyone knows, even if they haven’t seen it, is ‘The Time Warp’. The song has been on every wedding DJ’s playlist forever.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
If you want a darkly toned musical, you can’t get more bleak and violent than Sweeney Todd: Demon Barber of Fleet Street. When the studios wanted to make a film based on the stage show, who else other than Tim Burton would be better at capturing that macabre tone. Finally let loose in what is his only eighteen-rated film, Burton let’s everyone get pretty bloody, while singing at the same time. The highlights of the musical of the vengeance-seeking barber has to be ‘The Worst Pies in London’ sung by Helena Bonham Carter.
Anna and the Apocalypse is available on DVD and digital platforms now. You can read our review here.