Not quite dead, but not lively enough

Ea­ger-to-please pic­ture shot in Port Glas­gow set­tles for an oddly bland mid­dle course

StarMetro Calgary - - DAILY LIFE - Michael Phillips

(out of 4) Ac­cord­ing to the Scot­tish Christ­mas zom­bie mu­si­cal Anna and the Apoca­lypse, ground zero for the war on Christ­mas will take place in the water­front burg of Lit­tle Haven.

In ac­tu­al­ity, sec­ond-time fea­ture film di­rec­tor John McPhail shot this ea­ger-toplease pic­ture in Port Glas­gow, south of Loch Lomond. The re­sults take nei­ther the high road nor the low road, set­tling in­stead for an oddly bland mid­dle course.

I un­der­stand the im­pulse to­ward sneaky sin­cer­ity in a tale of grad­u­at­ing high­school mis­fits learn­ing team­build­ing skills and life lessons Ella Hunt, cen­tre, who stars in the zom­bie Christ­mas mu­si­cal Anna and the Apoca­lypse, is bet­ter than her ma­te­rial. GER­ARDO JACONELLI/ORION PIC­TURES

while fac­ing an ever-grow­ing army of un­dead Scots. But why not let the zom­bies sing? Why con­fine so much of the ac­tion to a bowl­ing al­ley? And where are the jokes? Did the jokes get killed off in a pre­quel?

In brief: In­stead of go­ing off to “uni” (uni­ver­sity), cool-butre­lat­able Anna (Ella Hunt, bet­ter than her ma­te­rial) crushes the hopes of her griev­ing wid­ower school jan­i­tor

dad (Mark Ben­ton) by an­nounc­ing her in­ten­tions to travel.

First, though, a lo­cal prob­lem arises, part of a global zom­bie pan­demic glimpsed on the oc­ca­sional TV screen.

Side char­ac­ters in­clude Anna’s rage-y ex (Ben Wiggins), whose per­son­al­ity con­ver­sion in the later scenes doesn’t merit the char­ac­ter’s sur­vival, and Anna’s nice-guy pal (Mal­colm Cum­ming),

stuck in a rut of un­re­quited love.

Chore­og­ra­pher Sarah Swire also plays a trans­fer stu­dent, nice and dead­pan with the throw­away lines. (She’s by far the most com­pelling screen pres­ence.) Stuck with dull songs — he’s not alone — Paul Kaye oozes generic malev­o­lence as the deputy head­mas­ter hell-bent on keep­ing the Christ­mas tal­ent show re­hearsals on track, de­spite the

zom­bie prob­lem.

Anna and the Apoca­lypse grew out of a 2010 short film, which fea­tures a few im­ages of mu­si­cally un­der­scored chaos far wit­tier than the ful­l­length film’s in­dis­tinct stag­ing and fram­ing.

A stage ver­sion at the Ed­in­burgh fringe fes­ti­val, af­ter a pint or two — that would be fun, I bet.

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