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  Anna and the Apocalypse Song Of The Dead
Year: 2017
Director: John McPhail
Stars: Ella Hunt, Malcolm Cumming, Sarah Swire, Christopher Leveaux, Marli Siu, Ben Wiggins, Mark Benton, Paul Kaye, Sean Connor, Ben Winchester, Euan Bennett, Ella Jarvis, Myfanwy Morgan, John McGeachie, Janet Lawson, Ruth McGhie, Kirsty Strain
Genre: Horror, Musical, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Anna Shepherd (Ella Hunt) is being driven to school with her best friend John (Malcolm Cumming), her father (Mark Benton) in the driver's seat, discussing her future, but it quickly becomes apparent thanks to John's big mouth that her plans are not the same as her dad's: he is horrified to hear she now has tickets to Australia where she wants to spend the year backpacking instead of attending university. He is fuming, and when they reach their destination they can barely look at each other, so off he goes to his janitor job there and off she goes to her class. But this will not be any ordinary day in school - in fact, it will not be any ordinary day on Planet Earth...

Anna and the Apocalypse actually had something of a tragic backstory, for it was conceived by Ryan McHenry, a Scottish filmmaker who had already made a version of this as a short film, and wanted to expand it into a feature. That he wasn't responsible for this result was where the tragedy entered into things, for he died aged twenty-seven before he was able to bring his biggest dreams to fruition, making this a tribute to his ideas and ambition, even if he would never get to see it. While the subject had been done to death in movies, the approach was different, as yes, this was a zombie flick, but it was in addition a musical, meaning every character (just about) had a song.

In that fashion watching this was like seeing two films stuck together, a horror movie and a musical, which would most likely appeal to you if you enjoyed the episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with the singing all the way through it, or perhaps you saw a High School Musical effort and believed it would be improved with the flesh-eating undead chomping their way through the cast. The songs themselves were fair, really the sort of affair you would get in a stage production (non-jukebox variety) rather than something of the calibre of the classics from the Golden Age of the style, leaning heavily on twenty-first century pop rather than the sort of showtunes you'd get on Broadway.

As for the gore, you would have a long wait for it, as the first half hour concerned itself with Anna's worries domestically and at school, with her other friends suffering their own trials and tribulations: John, for instance, is carrying a torch for Anna but cannot admit it to her because he knows he is strictly in the friend zone. Meanwhile Steph (Sarah Swire) is a budding journalist who wants to run before she can walk, clashing with the assholian deputy headmaster (soon to be actual head) Mr Savage (Paul Kaye), her pal Chris (Christopher Leveaux) is joined to his videos, and Anna's ex Nick (Ben Wiggins) is simply a bully they all try to avoid, complete with his entourage of hangers-on who make lives misery for the less "cool" students. So there was a dose of soap opera to this, like if Grange Hill had done a zombie episode (and was still running).

Once the news reports told the characters an infection was turning people antisocial, they only take notice when they cannot ignore it anymore, and that was when the public start getting bitten - interestingly the Army are no help whatsoever, for they all get bitten as well, leaving the streets strewn with shambling monsters. Now, the zombies did not do any singing, though perhaps that was an idea should any sequel appear, but every so often the action would pause and a tune would be trilled, and as this was a Christmas movie we were also given requisite subversion of the season that festive horror would impose. However, aside from Anna's outsized candy cane improvised weapon of choice, that sort of petered out, as did sad to say the fun factor, for what was exuberant increasingly turned very sorry for itself as the victims piled up. Still, for a decent stretch this succeeded as a novelty, and if it was far too morose by the conclusion, it was a Scottish movie that avoided all the clich├ęs that were usually involved (no heroin!). Music by Roddy Hart and Tommy Reilly.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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