Anna and the Apocalypse (2017) – John McPhail

A Christmas Zombie Horror Musical Comedy sounds like a definite win. I missed Anna and the Apocalypse when it played at Toronto After Dark a few years ago, and I was a little bummed about it. But now that the holidays have rolled around, I figured I could take a look at it and figure out if I enjoyed it or not.

It ends up being cute and entertaining, but after viewing, and perhaps it’s the critic reviews played during the trailer, it wasn’t as solid as I thought it would be. The musical numbers are hit and miss with the front half of the film getting the best pieces.

The story is fairly generic, high school angst, worries about the future, love lives, and parental problems, all given a twist when as Christmas draws closer the zombie apocalypse hits.

Anna (Ella Kent) is trying to figure out how to tell her (Mark Benton) dad she’s taking a year off before uni to travel, John (Malcolm Cumming) is her best friend who is in love with her, and she has a thorny history with Nick (Ben Wiggins), her friend Steph (Sarah Swire) has been left behind by her parents and girlfriend at Christmas, Chris (Christopher Leveaux) and Lisa (Marli Siu) have a wonderful relationship, and Headmaster Savage (Paul Kaye) is a complete tool.

All of these things bubble up and explode over the course of the film as the battle to survive begins. The cast sing and dance their way through the bloodshed and zombie stereotypes, and most of them are downright adorable doing it. You can see how Anna and most of her friends connect, but even when the history is explained with Nick, he still doesn’t feel like he fits into her world.

It’s cute and funny, but not quite as Christmas-y as it looked in the trailers, and comparing it to the likes of Shaun of the Dead is setting it up for failure. It has its moments, but Shaun of the Dead is comedy gold. And as likable as this cast is, it’s not perfect, and while enjoyable, it’s not going to be a perennial seasonal favourite.

The visual effects, though lacking in the gore one would expect from a rated-R zombie movie are solid, and you can see nods and homages to classic zombie flicks.

I think if I had seen this one when it originally screened at TAD I would have loved it, but letting all the other reviewers and critical praise inundate me before watching this one didn’t do it any favours.

That being said there are some catchy and playful tunes at work in the first half of the film. So if you’re looking for something a little different for the festive season, give this one a shot, but don’t watch the trailer or read any of the critical praise associated with it.

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