On paper, it would seem there is a lot love about Anna and the Apocalypse, a Christmas set musical about a young girl yearning for more from life while the zombie apocalypse rages in her tiny, Scottish town. In actuality, however, the film rarely matches the reach of its lofty premise.
This could be due to any number of reasons, not the least of which is how played out zombies are in this day and age. I mean we live in a world where millions of people tune in week after week to watch an hour-long zombie drama that, if we’re being honest, ran out of anything meaningful to say somewhere in its first season. Ever since the Zombaissance that began in the early-to-mid-aughts we have become inundated with the undead. There are, quite literally, hordes of them.
There is, of course, a charm in trying to do something different with a tired genre and, if nothing else, I certainly respect the efforts of Anna and the Apocalypse. It is, after all, a first screenplay, co-written by Alan McDonald and Ryan McHenry. I admire their attempts to mine something new out of something that’s so clearly dried and, yes, it’s not without its charms.
The film follows the young dreamer, Anna (Ella Hunt), who is stuck in the rut of high school, staring at the precipice of the rest of her life. And then, well, zombies. Suffice it to say, there’s not much more to it than that and, if you’ve seen one zombie movie, you’ve seen them all.
While not breaking the mold any narratively, the film does get points for its use of the musical. There is something kind of delightful about the idea of characters breaking out into song while wielding baseball bats and oversized candy canes against the walking dead, even if the songs are too often uninspired and lean too heavily into a pop motif whereas a more traditional musical approach might have accentuated the absurdity of the conceit.
Ultimately, however, there’s not too much new to appease any but the most ardent of zombie and horror fans. They will no doubt love the practical effects and bloody designs and forgive the film’s lesser qualities (like dialogue, plot, direction, etc.). There are, admittedly, some real fun zombie effects. Granted, none that we haven’t seen countless times before but, then again, it’s also fun to watch heads get cartoonishly crushed. Add a lively pop ditty to the mix and you have a recipe for, at the very least, an okay time.
Which is all Anna and the Apocalypse ever is. It’s never great. It’s never bad. It’s just okay. It feels like a good idea squandered and could have done with some script tightening along the way. Perhaps with the right group of friends and the proper amount of, um, party favors, it can be enjoyed for its camp qualities and absurdity but, in the end, it could have, and should have, been more than we got.
Anna and the Apocalypse is now available on DVD.