Respectful Reel Review #7

MOVIE TITLE:

Anna and the Apocalypse

IMDB YEAR RELEASED:

2018

STARRING:

Ella Hunt, Malcolm Cumming, Marli Siu, Sarah Swire, Christopher Leveaux, Ben Wiggins, Mark Benton, Paul Kaye

DIRECTED BY:

John McPhail

SUMMARY:

The zombie apocalypse occurs at Christmastime in the Scottish town of Little Haven. Anna and her high school friends must fight the horde with various makeshift weapons in a desperate attempt to survive in this Christmas, apocalyptic horror, teen angst, musical, comedy mashup.

TAGLINE:

“Oh the weather outside is frightful. . .”

PLOT:

Things are not going well for Anna and her high school friends in their small Scottish town of Little Haven. Anna has decided that when she graduates, she is taking a hiatus from school. Rather than attend University, she wants to go traveling via backpack in Australia, much to her fathers displeasure. Her best friend, John, is not so keen on the idea either, because he is harboring a secret crush on Anna. Their friend, Christopher is struggling with a class project. His teacher is asking him to put realism in his film work, and he’s thinking she means more robots. Steph is a transfer student who’s parents have gone to Mexico for the holidays, leaving her to fend for herself. Her girlfriend doesn’t want to spend the holidays with her either, and the assistant headmaster, Mr Savage, is interfering with her social justice work. Nick, the school bully, and Anna’s one-time paramour, persists in being an obnoxious jerk to John and Anna.

Just a “taste” of one of the earliest songs. It’s very teen angst kind of “Glee,” with some really talented singers.

The night of the school Christmas show, Steph and Christopher decide to combine their work and assist at a homeless shelter where Christopher can film the realism that the teacher is asking for and circumvent Mr. Savage’s interference with Steph’s social justice missions. Lisa, Christopher’s girlfriend is not too keen on the idea, because she is performing in the school show and would much prefer that her boyfriend watch her. John and Anna are working at a bowling alley on the same night that the zombie infection gets out of control, but they are oblivious to the state of things. The audience and the participants of the show must remain at the school when they find out that the unthinkable has occurred. The school is an evacuation center and close to a military facility so for the most part a state of calm prevails, for a while.

The following morning, Anna and John leave their respective homes completely oblivious to the apocalypse that is transpiring around them. When they encounter a fallen man dressed in a snowman costume, Anna attempts to revive him. As a first aid provider she feels responsible to help, and informs him of this just before she turns him over. When she does turn him over, we can see that he his mouth is covered in gore, as if he has been consuming human flesh. John and Anna try to fight him off, until his eventual demise. Instead of going to the school or home, they find themselves going to the bowling alley where they work. They find Steph and Chris there and help them fight off several interior threats. Steph finds out via social media that the following day there will be a military evacuation of the school. They resolve to go to the school, finding allies and challenges along the way.

Review:

By all logical standards, this movie shouldn’t work. Think about this: Christmas, apocalyptic horror, musical, comedy. I mean, sure we have some really good zombie comedies like Shawn of the Dead, and Zombieland, that imply that combining genres should be easy. However, there’s a certain temerity to incorporate song and dance with horror and comedy without becoming farcical which borders on brazen and ballsy. Unbelievably, and to my great joy, this movie works on multiple levels.

Do you remember when we were young and filled with hope and expectation? Do you remember the angst of living a small life in a huge world, and feeling lost in having to make choices that seemed so earth-shatteringly complex? Do you remember the broad sweeps of emotion that would have you one moment laughing so hard that your belly hurt, and the next moment weeping with such grief that you felt that NOTHING would ever be the same? When this movie tries to make you laugh, you laugh. When this movie wants to make you cry, you cry. In a way, it’s real-life comedy that sometimes borders on the ridiculous. It sometimes seems superfluous, but the reality is that THIS IS sometimes the tenor of life. In other ways, it’s drama, angst, and horror. The horror is overt and ultimately bleak. Not exactly a Hollywood ending like it warns in an early song. Even so, much of my life has been similarly mirrored, even in the musical aspect. Think about it! There are times in life that we are at our lowest and we hear the snippet of a song that resonates so profoundly with that moment that we believe that God is speaking to us. There is serendipity, magic, clarity, and epiphany. That’s what this movie attempts to do, with amazing success.

This movie is really so good that I not only watched it once, I watched it twice. In between, I saw Holiday Hell, and that movie is so bad that I needed to re-watch Anna and the Apocalypse to scrub that movie from my brain. From the beginning, when you hear the name of the town, Little Haven, knowing that you’re going to watch a zombie apocalypse movie, there was a glimmer of a thought that the writer has a keen sense of irony. I figured that I was in the hands of a master craftsman, and even though some would sneer at my description, I really believe the writer, Ryan McHenry, knows what he’s doing. The way the characters all grasp their new realities seems so spot-on that you might think that McHenry had lived through a zombie apocalypse himself. Nick, the Army brat, becomes MORE militant post apocalypse. Anna becomes even more staid and unaffected. John summons his courage to defend Anna. Assistant Headmaster Savage becomes MORE head mastery. It’s astonishing. It has officially replaced my Christmas GO-TO movie from Gremlins to Anna and the Apocalypse. It’s not a perfect movie. But ALMOST a perfect movie. Either way, I’m giving it 5 stars. Watch it! You won’t be disappointed.

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