A zombie apocalypse threatens the sleepy town of Little Haven – at Christmas – forcing Anna Shepherd (Ella Hunt) and her friends to fight, slash and sing their way to survival, facing the undead in a desperate race to reach their loved ones. But they soon discover that no one is safe in this new world, and with civilization falling apart around them, the only people they can truly rely on are each other.
Christmas horror films never fail to amaze me. They are simply brilliant, as they take a holiday that is traditionally viewed as a time to be joyous and happy, and flips it upside down, and tries to terrify you instead. This is one of the reasons why I really got a kick out of Michael Dougherty’s Krampus – a film that divided tons of critics and audiences alike, mainly due to its strange nature. It blended multiple genres in one; those being horror, comedy, and Christmas.
John McPhail’s Anna and the Apocalypse is a similar kind of film, but unlike the aforementioned Krampus, this is a film that is so self aware and light-hearted that its charm is almost infectious. One of the biggest reasons why is because of the musical element. Picture Shaun of the Dead meets a Christmas play. It’s zany.
Ella Hunt stars as lead character Anna Shepherd, and she completely blew me away. Her character is extremely charming, likeable, and is incredibly funny throughout. But when the time comes for Hunt to sell an emotional scene, she does so effortlessly. Hunt will star in the upcoming Apple TV+ exclusive series Dickinson this November, and I hope she delivers as good a performance in that show as she did here.
But perhaps my favorite element to Anna and the Apocalypse is its musical numbers. Every one of the songs present are highly catchy, and they will be stuck in your head days after your inital viewing. The two standout songs are without a doubt “Hollywood Ending” and “Human Voice”. The entire soundtrack is brilliant and the songs are some of the best songs created for a film I have heard in years.
Zombie aficionados will also be in for a treat with this movie’s horror aspects. The zombies themselves are never really presented as horrifying things, but more like goofy characters, and it works well with the rest of the film’s tone. The kills can get relatively bloody and will surely delight horror lovers.
When it comes to issues, there are a couple that do unfortunately stand out. For one, it took quite a bit of time to get invested in the characters; about thirty or so minutes. That may not seem like a long time, but considering the fact that the full US version’s running time is ninety three minutes, it is a bit disappointing. Secondly, the characters never really show any panic once they learn that a zombie apocalypse is quickly coming to threaten the world. The characters act as if they are completely prepared to take the undead on, but if this was reality, there would be mass hysteria.
Anna and the Apocalypse is an absolute delight, featuring masterful musical numbers, bloody zombie fun, and terrific performances throughout.
Overall Grade: A-
MPAA Rating: R for zombie violence and gore, language, and some sexual material
Cast: Ella Hunt, Malcolm Cumming, Marli Siu, Sarah Swire, Christopher Leveaux, Ben Wiggins
Directed by: John McPhail
Distributed by: Orion Pictures, AMP International, Vertigo Releasing
Running Time: 108 minutes (original cut), 98 minutes (UK cut), 93 minutes (US cut)