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Simon Read [Celluloid 07.09.18] United Kingdom post apocalyptic zombies horror

This lively horror-comedy-musical from director John McPhail stars Ella Hunt (Robot Overlords) as the eponymous Anna, a high school girl in Scotland facing the end of civilization, zombie-style. It’s a charming film, a little rough around the edges, but with enough spirit to carry it along, and by the end it had won me over.

There are two major things in life that I’ve come to accept about myself: 1) I am not a morning person, 2) I don’t like musicals. This film was not made for me. When characters in films open their mouths and start to sing their feelings, I become embarrassed, I cringe, and I want it to stop immediately. That said, Anna and the Apocalypse... Well, it’s just fun.

Anna and her friends John (Malcolm Cumming), Steph, (Sarah Swire) and Chris (Christopher Leveaux), wake one Christmas morning in their little Scottish town only to discover that the undead invasion has begun. After their initial shock, and a grisly encounter with a zombie dressed as a snowman, they hide out in a bowling alley and take shelter.

Meanwhile, at the local high school, the strict headmaster Mr. Savage (a scene-stealing Paul Kaye) has set up a makeshift shelter for survivors, only to become crazed with power and –in true Captain Rhodes style – start losing his mind.

It would be easy to describe this film as a mash-up of Glee, The Breakfast Club, and Shaun of the Dead, and probably lazy too, but it’s pretty much exactly that. The relationships between the characters - the unrequited love of John for Anna, Anna’s issues with her disapproving father, and Mr. Savage’s own twisted desire for acceptance - are all examined through the medium of song and dance.

Elaborate and skilfully choreographed musical set-pieces punctuate the story, often involving gory splatter when zombies are involved, and the film doesn’t hold back in either regard. These kids sing their little hearts out while bashing in undead brains, and it’s hard not to fall for it (and I tried!).

While the production obviously had a low-budget, which does occasionally show, the enthusiasm of the film-makers and actors for the material shines through financial limitations, and it’s all pretty infectious. Director McPhail has a flair for mixing comedy and action, and one sequence involving an upturned inflatable ball pit sticks out as a little moment of creative brilliance.

Anna and the Apocalypse stands as a great example of itself. It may not be high art, but it surprised me. It won me over.

Recommended Release: Night of the Living Deb

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