Review: ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE Is Unabashedly Weird (In The Best Ways)

anna and the apocalypse snowman
Ella Hunt and Malcom Cumming star in Orion Pictures ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE. Photo Credit: Gerardo Jaconelli / Orion Pictures.

Anna and the Apocalypse is a new film directed by John McPhail and written by Alan McDonald and Ryan McHenry. It is a musical about a group of friends who must fight for survival when the zombie apocalypse comes to their quiet British town at Christmas. It debuted at the 2017 Fantastic Fest and is finally making its way to theaters with a holiday-timed release.

This is absolutely one of the most creative films to be released in quite a long time. Who would have thought to make a zombie Christmas musical? Apparently these guys, and it works surprisingly well. Christmas is more of an overarching presence in the movie than an actual plot device, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be relegated to yearly December viewings.

A significant part of what makes this film work so well is that the characters are so well-written and compelling. The protagonist, Anna, is thoroughly sympathetic. Multiple aspects of her experience (with the obvious exception of the zombie apocalypse) are entirely relatable and make the emotional scenes of the movie all the more resonant. The supporting characters are surprisingly well-developed too. They begin as archetypes and then are expanded over the course of the film to become much more complex and likable.

anna and the apocalypse candy cane
Ella Hunt stars in Orion Pictures’ ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE. Photo Credit: Gerardo Jaconelli / Orion Pictures.

The film also has legitimate stakes, which makes it more enjoyable and involving. Even though it starts as a bright and cheery musical, and it still has the boppy songs in the darker moments, characters are actually affected by the events in the movie, and it gets really sad. Despite the story being based in fantasy, it is rooted in reality, with some honest messages about life.

The story of the film is quite compelling. Although the goal of rescuing one’s loved ones during the apocalypse is not a new device for the genre, the well-written characters make it interesting and refreshing. There is also a romantic subplot in the movie that is very effective. The love triangle that is established is completely believable and not entirely predictable.

anna and the apocalypse turning my life around
Ella Hunt stars in Orion Pictures ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE. Photo Credit: Gerardo Jaconelli / Orion Pictures.

In terms of execution, the film is very strong too. It is rare that an independent musical has such high production values because the genre typically requires a Hollywood-level budget. The choreography and cinematography during the musical scenes is particularly strong. The scene featuring the song “Turning My Life Around” is perhaps the best in the movie, as it utilizes the camera and the song for both humor and emotional effect very well.

The soundtrack of the film is absolutely amazing. All of the members of the cast have very good singing voices, and the songs are some of the catchiest of the year. “Hollywood Ending” is perhaps the best song in the movie because it embodies the theme of the film perfectly and has the catchiest hook, but the whole soundtrack is comprised of songs which would be easy to listen to on their own.

Overall, Anna and the Apocalypse is an enjoyable and unique movie unlike anything you will have seen before. It won’t be for everyone, as its creative genre combination may be off-putting to some, but it is a rewarding musical experience if you catch on to the ingenuity.

Anna and the Apocalypse is now playing in select theaters.

By Sean Boelman

Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

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