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​EIFF 2018: Anna and the Apocalypse (2017) starring Ella Hunt

N.B. This film is not on wide release in the UK at present. It is showing at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on Friday 29th and Saturday 30th June 2018.

A song and dance about zombies

This horror/comedy/musical is set during the run-up to Christmas. Anna (Ella Hunt) is an adolescent girl who falls out with her father (played by Mark Benton), who works as a caretaker at her school. Their disagreement centres around the fact that she wants to travel the world for a year after graduation instead of going straight to university. Amongst the other pupils attending the same school are her ex-boyfriend Nick (Ben Wiggins), her best friend John (Malcolm Cumming), a female friend named Lisa (Marli Siu), the latter’s boyfriend Chris (Christopher Leveaux) and a lesbian American named Steph (Sarah Swire). Their headmaster is the stuck-up Mr. Savage (played by comedian Paul Kaye).

This group of kids soon has plenty to make a (literal) song and dance about when a zombie apocalypse ensues. During their attempts to survive, Anna decides to set out to rescue her dad from the school.

Watch a trailer:

A curious genre blend

If there’s one thing you can say about Anna and the Apocalypse it’s that it’s definitely the best zombie-comedy-musical-high-school-Christmas movie ever made. Not that (as far as I’m aware) anything quite like it has been attempted before. That’s a curious mixture of genres and, frankly, quite a challenging one to balance in terms of overall tone. While it doesn’t pull it off with complete success, the results are still entertaining.

It’s an independently-made feature which was shot in Scotland (around Glasgow and Greenock) on a low budget. However, it has a slickness about it which belies its modest conception. The production design is colourful, the effects are neatly-executed, the dance choreography is elaborate and the songs, while rather mainstream pop stuff, are undeniably catchy.

The film works best during its first half where the mixture of comedy, high school angst, musical numbers and over-the-top gore is consistently lively and inventive. Highlights include a hilariously innuendo-laden nativity show number about Santa, a couple of inventive decapitations (by seesaw and bowling alley pinsetter) and a dryly humorous turn by Paul Kaye as a parody of that incredibly pompous and condescending headmaster whom you quite possibly remember from your own school years. The younger cast members are fine singers and give decent, if unspectacular performances during their dialogue scenes.

During the second half, the tone gets considerably darker and more serious. Unfortunately, this shift takes some of the invention and fun with it. The jokes become fewer in number and there are a lot of repetitive scenes involving the characters running through darkened rooms as they attempt to escape from one zombie horde after another. The script also decides to kill off a number of the more likeable characters, an aspect which definitely jars with the lighter elements seen earlier on. As a result, Anna and the Apocalypse ultimately isn’t quite the musical answer to Shaun of the Dead that it should have been. Nonetheless, it’s worth seeing for sheer novelty value alone.

Runtime: 109 mins

Dir: John McPhail

Script: Alan McDonald, Ryan McHenry

Starring: Ella Hunt, Malcolm Cumming, Sarah Swire, Christopher Leveaux, Ben Wiggins, Marli Siu, Mark Benton, Paul Kaye, Ella Jarvis, Calum Cormack

Rating: ☆☆☆

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