Hol­i­day night­mare

Fight­ing zom­bies, with a catchy beat, in vi­o­lent ‘Anna and the Apoc­a­lypse’

Boston Herald - - MOVIES - James VERNIERE

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.’

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