Festive fancies jingling your way.
If you watch one Scottish zombie Christmas musical this year, it has to be Anna And The Apocalypse, the movie that’s been drawing comparisons to Shaun Of The Dead and hoovering awards as fast as it hoses blood on the festival circuit.
“My favourite musical is South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, but I didn’t know musicals that well before I came on board – you’d have had to take me kicking and screaming,” grins director John McPhail, whose previous romcom Where Do We Go From Here? won him the chance to pitch for the gig. “So I had to watch countless musicals. I fell in love with West Side Story – the cutting, the cinematography, the movement – but I only lasted 10 minutes of High School Musical.”
Anna (Ella Hunt) is a teen living in the sleepy town of Little Haven. She longs to get out but excitement, not to mention terror, comes to her when a zombie apocalypse hits town on the night of the school Christmas concert.
“We filmed in a wee place called Port Glasgow,” says McPhail. “It’s rough as fuck but the Clyde runs through it and it’s got these rolling hills. It was perfect: nice residential streets, parks, a school that we could base the production in… And the locals were great. They were so up for it.”
What Anna lacks in budget it makes up for in verve, blending characters you care about with dynamic direction, big laughs, a bigger heart, truly terrific numbers written by Scottish singersongwriters Roddy Hart and Tommy Reilly, nods to Romero, Raimi and Carpenter, a boo-hiss school principal in the form of Paul Kaye, and fountains of the red stuff.
“I wanted practical gore,” says McPhail, who’s a proud genre nerd. “I love horror, and I am not going to alienate ‘my people’.” Indeed, the kills are ickily inventive crowd-pleasers, with the decapitation of a zombie wearing an outsized snowman outfit even winning Total Film’s ‘Best Death’ award at horror festival FrightFest. “It was fun,” says McPhail, grinning once more. “Lopping off a snowman’s head and getting a blood cannon in there...”
ETA |30 NOVEMBER/ ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE OPENS NEXT MONTH.
SCHOOL'S OuT Christmas carnage at the school concert; Ella Hunt as Anna (below).