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 turned into a movie set and taken over by teenage zom­bies by paul english

The Sunday Post (Newcastle) - - NEWS -


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.

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

High School Mu­si­cal meets Shaun Of The Dead in Port Glas­gow ceme­tery.

Ella Hunt, 20, plays Anna. The ac­tor grew up in Devon and left main­stream school­ing at 14 to train in per­for­mance. She said: “School was a funny time for me. I think in the UK in par­tic­u­lar young peo­ple are op­posed to be­ing overtly as­pi­ra­tional. They call you cocky or weird, and as a kid who has al­ways loved per­form­ing and knew what I wanted to do and was open about it, that wasn’t al­ways ap­pre­ci­ated.

“There was a strange feel­ing of be­ing back in school. I loved it. And un­like school, I’ve got a whole group of best friends. It was a bit of a heal­ing process.”

In­ver­ness ac­tor Mal­colm Cum­ming, 27, plays Ella’s love in­ter­est, John.

He ac­knowl­edged the late Ryan’s in­flu­ence on the work as it de­vel­oped.

“The pro­duc­ers were very open about what it was like for them to work with Ryan and taking that orig­i­nal idea for­ward,” he said. “There was a sense that this was some­thing spe­cial – th­ese peo­ple worked with him, they were his friends. Ryan’s par­ents came on set and saw how far some­thing he cre­ated had gone.”

Ella added: “The legacy that Ryan McHenry has left is en­cour­ag­ing a whole bunch of young cre­atives to go into a ca­reer in film­mak­ing and to do it boldly. It’s about be­liev­ing in each other. Maybe we aren’t a big stu­dio, maybe we haven’t done ev­ery­thing that peo­ple in movies across the At­lantic say we’re sup­posed to do – but let’s just do it.”

One of the movie’s ma­jor strengths is the sound­track penned by Glas­gow song­writ­ers Roddy Hart and Tommy Reilly, pro­duced by top indie pro­ducer Paul Sav­age, more used to pol­ish­ing the work of Calvin Har­ris and Franz Fer­di­nand than a high school mu­si­cal about zom­bies.

St Stephen’s was no Hog­warts, no mis­take.

But I learned and laughed a lot there – and had a few nar­row es­capes, be­lieve me. I’m just grate­ful my mates and I made it out alive.

Anna And The Apoca­lypse is re­leased on November 30.

Blood on the walls as Paul English re­vis­its the movie shooting in his old school, left, and Ella Hunt stars as Anna, main and be­low

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