Anna and the Apocalypse follows the titular Anna (Ella Hunt), who wants to leave her small town and make her own future, and her group of friends. John (Malcolm Cumming) is her best friend who clearly loves her. Steph (Sarah Swire) is an American exchange student marooned for the holidays by her parents and her girlfriend who wants to expose the lack of care for those in trouble in our world. And finally, filmmaker Chris (Christopher Leveaux) and his theater kid girlfriend Lisa (Marli Siu) who is preparing for the Christmas pageant. They are all dealing with their high school problems, when they wake up the next day to find the zombie apocalypse has begun. As such they have to fight to survive whilst singing and dancing to fantastic musical numbers!
Above all else I want to credit the writing and directing team behind this. The film and music are written by Ryan McHenry (who made the short film Zombie Musical this is based on) and Alan McDonald. They make a film full of characters that both fit into Zombie movie tropes, but also go past that. Not a single character, at least those with any lines, doesn’t get some real depth to them. Even our ‘antagonist’ gets fleshed out more and two great songs that help you to understand his motivations. And the songs are some of the catchiest you’ll hear around, and some downright beautiful. Mixing them with director John McPhail’s strong cinematography and understanding of the choreography and it’s a real joy. Take the big show stopper Hollywood Ending where a lunchroom turns into a stage with varied layers, and a group of brunets becomes like a visualizer as they shake their heads behind the singer. Only one song falters a bit in the visuals, but its towards the end of the film, and the song itself is still a beautiful emotional capper to that moment. Overall, they really work together to make a gorgeous product, and a soundtrack I’ve been listening to on repeat.
Another place they really win is with picking the right talent. Hunt especially is primed to be the next Hollywood it girl from a look like a young Anne Hathaway, to a good singing voice, and strong performance. I so look forward to seeing her in more after this because she really holds the focus here. Cumming is good as the lovestruck friend who doesn’t realize that’s all he is to Anna. He is that kinda dorky friend you can always rely on. Swire is a talent I think is getting overlooked as her singing voice is stellar, and her character has the most depth of any of the kids. Leveaux and Siu don’t need to be together to be good. They go beyond that cutesy high school romance it seems is all they are at the beginning. Also Siu gets one of the best songs in the movie at the holiday pageant. Ben Wiggins deserves some credit as Nick, the attractive school bully that Anna has a love-hate relationship with. But honestly the last big character is their Assistant Principal Mr. Savage (Paul Kaye). Kaye has a severe yet nasally tone that brings the character to life in a great way, and makes his songs so very specific to him.
There are slow points, and jokes in the dialog which don’t always hit. But those feel so very minor here because every other moment is just so fantastic. If you like musicals, this is for you. If you like zombie movies, this is for you. If you like horror comedy, this is for you. And if you like Christmas movies then this is very for you. Its easily the best Christmas movie this year, and will definitely now be part of my holiday tradition!