The Movie Waffler New to Shudder - ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE | The Movie Waffler


anna and the apocalypse review
A teenager's Christmas is interrupted by a zombie apocalypse.

Review by Blair MacBride

Directed by: John McPhail

Starring: Ella Hunt, Malcolm Cumming, Sarah Swire, Ella Jarvis, Paul Kaye

Anna and the Apocalypse poster

John McPhail’s Anna and the Apocalypse certainly doesn’t adhere to the traditional norms of film genres. That aside, this Shaun of the Dead meets High School Musical melodic comedy/horror is a pleasantly surprising and inventive feature.

anna and the apocalypse review

At Christmas time, Anna (Ella Hunt) is half-way through her last year of school. As the ‘adult world’ looms large, she faces the tough decision of deciding whether to appease her Dad (Mark Benton) by going to university, or staying true to her own desires by taking a gap year. But when a Zombie Apocalypse breaks out in her quiet town of Little Haven, the problems of teenage angst are put on hold as Anna and her friends focus on their survival by stabbing, slashing and singing their way to reuniting with their loved ones.

What first strikes you about this intriguing genre-mash-up is its production quality. A no-doubt tight-budgeted Scottish horror/comedy/musical doesn’t necessarily sound like a project that might make it in the grand scheme of cinema, but to its credit, Anna and the Apocalypse looks sharp and feels sleek. The set design is vibrant, the effects are skillfully pulled-off, and the music has its own original and catchy feel to it.

anna and the apocalypse review

This odd yet satisfying movie also has a strong cast for the type of film that it is - especially as a number of the younger actors aren’t the most experienced in feature films. Hunt is brilliant as Anna: not only does she have a wonderful voice, but she’s also a commanding and captivating lead performer. By creating the perfect balance of a tough zombie slaying yet still emotionally vulnerable teen, Hunt’s Anna becomes an absorbing and fitting main protagonist of the film (Anna’s teenage inner conflict feels very relatable - a testament to Hunt’s portrayal of the character). As for the rest of the gang, the youthful ensemble of Malcolm Cumming as John (Anna’s best friend), Sarah Swire as Steph, Marli Siu as Lisa, Christopher Leveaux as Chris, and Ben Wiggins as Nick also do each of their characters real justice.

Another impressive aspect of Anna and the Apocalypse is its script and, specifically, the crossover between the coming of age style storyline and the undead nightmare that befalls Anna and her friends. As we become involved in their stories, the fondness that has developed for the characters is tested when, inevitably, the continually rising hordes of zombies get the better of some of them. This, however, merely exemplifies how invested we are in the story, which is a tribute to the writing.

anna and the apocalypse review

While this movie’s script is refreshing and innovative, it does, at the same time, have its faults. On occasion, sequences feel slightly repetitive and synonymous with other zombie apocalypse films - i.e. constantly running into a confined area only to be confronted with more zombies. Not only that, but some of the dialogue between songs feels unnecessarily cringe-worthy, taking away from the dramatic and meaningful nature of a number of scenes (particularly in the latter stages of the film). The slightly muddled tone of the third act is also an unfortunate slip as the comedy from the first, and the darker tones from the second, never really merge as well as you’d hope. In all fairness, however, the positive greater part of this bizarrely fun feature can’t be forgotten either.

As a novelty unto itself, Anna and the Apocalypse really does surprise in being a genuinely enjoyable movie. The comedy is good, the horror is executed well, and the music (along with the superbly choreographed dance sequences) leaves you wondering where you can get your hands on a copy of the film’s soundtrack. Despite the blips, this film is an impressive feature debut for writers Alan McDonald and Ryan McHendry.

Anna and the Apocalypse is on Shudder UK now.