The terrible screams of lost souls fill the corridors andnooneis leaving double maths alive... nah,myold school hasn’t changed a bit
Writer returns to his alma mater only to discover it has been Director: I blame mum for turning me into a little
five years had passed – it seemed in the blink of an eye – but some things had not changed a bit.
There were fearsome characters in the playground, bloody battles in the canteen, and, behind the doors of the staff-room, lost souls staring blankly into the middle distance, as pupils shrieked through the corridors outside.
The only difference was that a film crew was there to film it, capturing every blood-curdling scream, song and dance in one of the most eagerly-anticipated Scottish films in years.
I revisited the corridors and classrooms of my teenage years when cameras rolled in Port Glasgow’s former St Stephen’s High on Anna And The Apocalypse, the zombie-comedy-musical, which sees a young girl and her schoolpals fight to save the world from an invasion of the undead.
As tough as it sometimes was, St Stephen’s was never this hellish, except, perhaps, during double maths.
Terrible screams rang out from what was once the computing classroom, lights flickered along corridors and the physics department was off-limits.
It felt just like 1992.
Bloody handprints were smeared across the window of the canteen, and puddles of the stuff ran the length of the corridors.
My English teachers at St Stephen’s High in Port Glasgow strove valiantly to spark our imaginations.
In a town where the true apocalypse came in rolling waves of redundancies through the 1980s and 90s, they introduced us to the magic of Shakespeare, the everyday romance of poet Norman Maccaig and the potent realism of playwright Alan Spence.
Yet even they would have laughed off any notion that a musical horror movie feted by one of the most famous production companies in film history would be shot in these classrooms, and raved about in The New York Times.
Now, almost three decades later, that wildest fiction is a glorious, blood-smeared, flesh-eating, singing, dancing reality.
As Anna And The Apocalypse co-producer Nick Crum toured me through the building, my feet sticking to the sugar-syrup blood, pausing to look at severed bodyparts in my old English classroom, I recalled the teachers who made the difference – Mcbride, Johnston, Mckinlay, Mccrorey, Sullivan, Doherty, Mcgillivray – as well as some others I’d rather forget. Memories sprung from every corner of the days of 10p Space Raiders and spam rolls, Joan Lingard novels and first kisses in the school disco, when the canteen became a nightclub for 13 year olds at Christmas. It does in the movie, too, with thrilling choreography and brilliant music in one of the best set pieces since Sandra Dee and Danny Zuko strutted their stuff in Grease’s Rydell High dance off.
Later this month, it’ll be distributed through cinemas by Orion, the California-based production house behind Rambo, Robocop and Dances With Wolves. Anna And The Apocalypse was the brainchild of filmmaker Ryan Mchenry, who tragically died from cancer in 2015 aged just 27, before he could see it being made. Director John Mcphail says he got his love of horror films early... possibly a little too early.
The 33-year-old, who picked up a number of awards for directing 2015’s Where Do We Go From His friends, producers Crum and Naysun Alae-carew, pursued Ryan’s ambition, bringing in writer Alan Mcdonald and director John Mcphail. Once funding was secured, their company Blazing Griffin set their sights on taking the undead doon the water. Inverclyde had no chance. The zombies were coming.
Anna And The Apocalypse features well-kent faces Mark Benton ( Waterloo Road) and Paul Kaye (Dennis Pennis) as the senior names on a register of young stars-in-waiting.
It’s an unlikely love story on the lower Clyde where ghouls stalk new housing developments behind Tesco, scuffing through playparks and crumbling industrial estates in the hunt for human flesh. Think Here?, said: “I grew up with films. My mum loved John Carpenter, one of my favourite directors. She would say ‘you need to watch The Fog, it’s brilliant’ and I’d be sitting there terrified!
“For years I actually wanted to be a cinematographer, and it wasn’t until about six or seven years ago I started directing, made my first short film. I really enjoyed it and bossing people about!
“No, I love working with people and being collaborative. That’s the best part, I got to just hang about withmypalsandmakea film.”
Having previously worked onromanticcomedies,he relished the chance to work on his favourite genre for Anna And The Apocalypse, albeit with a few nerves.
“I loved it, but I was terrified.” he says. “I wanted to make sure I did everything right by what I would want as a horror fan.”
John wasn’t, however, a musical fan, until he started doing his research for
Director John Mcphail