Before Anna And The Apoclaypse, I considered myself very much done with the zombie genre. In between the mindnumbing blandness of countless Living Dead knockoffs, my ongoing inability to understand the inexplicable popularity of The Walking Dead, and a pronounced boredom with this genre's tropes, I had more or less decided not to bother with zombie movies (or TV shows!) anymore. Took the same policy with vampire stuff a few years ago and I sleep just fine, thank you.
But then I saw the first trailer for Anna And The Apocalypse, and...well, what can I say? My being-done-with-zombies policy did not account for the possibility of a (deep breath) musical zombie Christmas comedy. Even if the trailer hadn't been great (which, by the way, it is; I've embedded it at the bottom of this review in case you missed it the first time), there's no way I wasn't going to check that particular sub-genre off my list.
I am pleased to report, then, that John McPhail's Anna And The Apocalypse is so much more than a genre-mashup oddity. This is a big-hearted, frequently funny, visually inventive new sub-genre classic, a film I suspect will become mandatory annual Christmastime viewing for me and many of my friends. McPhail took the pop culture riffs and practical gore effects of Shaun Of The Dead, infused it with the slick pop songwriting of High School Musical, and somehow - call it a Christmas miracle - made it all hang together.
It's worth noting that the musical elements are the real draw here (the plot struck me as standard issue: we meet a number of characters, each with their own problems, and then we watch them grapple with/solve those problems against the backdrop of a zombie apocalypse), something I absolutely didn't see coming. About ten minutes into Anna And The Apocalypse, you get not one but three barnburner musical performances - sometimes funny, sometimes not - before the zombie shenanigans even start. Once they do, the musical numbers arrive at regular intervals, interspersed between zombie-killing set pieces and big character moments, but that first half hour is where things really peak.
Had a soundtrack been available for purchase immediately upon leaving the theater, I would not have hesitated to pick one up. Anna And The Apocalypse's songs are infectuous and fun, and the wildly talented cast that's been tasked with performing them knock each and every number out of the park. If there's any justice in the world, stars Ella Hunt, Malcolm Cumming, Sarah Swire and Christopher Leveaux will all go on to very big things; I want very much to see more from these folks, just as I can't wait to see McPhail's next film.
I'm not entirely sure when Anna And The Apocalypse will hit the States (this is a Scottish production, by the way, which I suppose adds another layer to the particular sub-genre this film falls within), but the entire Birth.Movies.Death. crew fell in love with this one at Fantastic Fest, and you can rest assured we'll be keeping our collective ear to the ground for updates on its release. You guys are gonna love this one.