Fighting zombies, with a catchy beat, in violent ‘Anna and the Apocalypse’
If you took “Shaun of the Dead” (2003) and set it during Christmastime, you’d have a much better film than “Anna and the Apocalypse.” But because “Anna and the Apocalypse,” which was shot in Scotland, is also a zombie-movie musical, it has mediocre singing and dancing, too.
In opening scenes, Anna (an appealing Anna Hunt, who was an ensemble player in “Les Miserables”) and her best friend and unrequited love mate John (Malcolm Cumming) are being driven by Anna’s loving widower father, Tony (Mark Benton), to high school, where the seniors are, of course, putting on a show. In the course of small talk, Anna is forced to reveal that she is taking a year off before “uni” (i.e. university) to travel to Australia. Dad Tony is none too
happy. No one seems to notice announcements concerning a “lethal pathogen” over the car radio.
At school we meet Anna’s friends: featured school play singer Lisa (Marli Siu, who seems destined for bigger things) and her ardent boyfriend, Chris (Christopher Leveaux). Also involved in the show is crop-haired blonde Steph (Sarah Swire, who appears to have had vocal training). The troublemakers of the piece are the handsome prankster Nick (Ben Wiggins, “Mary Queen of Scots”), upon whom Anna has a crush against her better judgment, and Mr. Savage (Paul Kaye, aka Thoros of Myr on “Game of Thrones”), who appears to believe he’s playing the lead in “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”
Once the zombie apocalypse reaches their bucolic Scots town of Little Haven, Anna and her father and friends hide inside buildings. In her case, she hides with John in the bowling
alley where she works, handing out stinky shoes to local louts. See the many ways in which zombies can be put to rest using everyday things found in a bowling alley. But watch out for Mrs. Hinzmann (Janet Lawson), who is in the loo. Lisa, Chris, Tony and Steph, meanwhile are holed up in the high school and at the mercy of an increasingly deranged Mr. Savage, who makes the zombies seem likable.
Every now and then, cast members of “Anna and the Apocalypse” break into generic song and truly rudimentary dance routines (lots of arm waving). It isn’t the zombie movie “Grease,” I can assure you. Using a big, wooden candy cane stick, Anna fights her way through a zombie elf, a zombie snowman, zombie Christmas shoppers and zombie cheerleaders (Are there any other kind?) to find and rescue her dad. But the zombies keep coming (as do the songs and dances), as well as, of course, a zombie Santa (Calum Cormack). Inevitably, Anna’s friends succumb one by one.
Directed by John McPhail, who has one previous feature credit, and written by newcomer Alan McDonald and Ryan McHenry, whose credits include a 2010 BAFTA-winning short titled “Zombie Musical,” with music by newcomers Roddy Hart and Tommy Reilly, “Anna and the Apocalypse” isn’t the worst way to spend a rainy day if you’re a genre fan. Speaking of which, the breathtaking exterior visuals suggest that it must have been very hard to predict the weather in Scotland. (“Anna and the Apocalypse” contains graphic zombie-movie violence, profanity and sexually suggestive language.)
DON’T MAKE ME USE THIS: Ella Hunt and Ben Wiggins, below right, confront zombies in their Scottish town in ‘Anna and the Apocalypse.’