Anna and The Apocalypse Review: The Must-See Zombie Musical That You Never Knew You Needed.
After seeing over 300 films every year for the past seven to ten years, I can honestly say that only about 10-15% of all the films released each year take chances and dare to do something creative, wild, and different. Anna and the Apocalypse is one of those films because it takes a simple premise, one that we’ve seen so many times before, and does something completely fresh and unique with it. Screenwriters Ryan McHenry and Alan McDonald thought outside the box when they decided to turn the zombie apocalypse into a musical which just so happens to take place around Christmas. It is just so rare nowadays to see films that take chances which is why I believe Anna and the Apocalypse isn’t just a musical, comedic masterpiece but one that destined to become a cult classic.
If I said this once, I’ve said it a million times, leave it up to independent filmmakers to take the biggest risks to create something wildly original. Anna and The Apocalypse is such a breath of fresh air because it dares to be different and isn’t afraid of being weird and wacky. All you need to know about Anna and The Apocalypse before going to see it is that it is a zombie musical comedy. The less you know about this film, the more enjoyable the experience becomes.
As a critic, I often find myself comparing one film to another. This is sort of a subconscious thing that a lot of us do whenever we watch a movie. Critics see so many films a year, and because of this, we tend to compare the similarities or themes of one film to something else that has been previously released. The reason why I’m bringing this up is that there are a lot of people comparing this film to Shaun of the Dead. The only similarities between Anna and The Apocalypse and Shaun of the Dead are that it is about zombies and it is a comedy. The plot details, all of its characters, and the fact that it is a musical are more than enough reasons to say that Anna and The Apocalypse is an original idea that is truly unlike any of zombie apocalypse film to date. I’m only pointing this out because I feel like it’s incredibly unfair to both films to compare them. They are two very different films but equally brilliant for various reasons.
What makes Anna and The Apocalypse so special is that it is a musical and everyone involved embraces it. The songs written by Roddy Hart and Tommy Reilly are written like any good musical that follows the classic Broadway song technique. What do I mean by that? Well, most songs in a musical serve a purpose, and most of them should push the story forward. Each one of the songs in Anna and The Apocalypse has a reason for being there even if it’s just to produce a laugh such as “The Fish Wrap.” However, songs like “Break Away” reflect the internal struggles that Anna and the other characters are facing as they are all uncertain of what to do with their lives even before the Zombie Apocalypse becomes a concern. The film’s most catchy tune is without question, “Hollywood Ending” which after seeing the film does a great job of setting up of not only setting up what is going to happen during the film eventually but summing up the entire film almost perfectly in about 3 minutes and 30 seconds. I found that all of the musical numbers were equally great and every one stood out on its own for different reasons.
When coming up with a concept like the one in this film, you need a great director attached to pull it off. Kudos to John McPhail for taking the risk and coming onboard to direct this one-of-kind musical comedy. Within the first five minutes of the film, it was made abundantly clear that McPhail believed in this story and wanted to make it something special. His attention to detail shows throughout the film, not only in the musical numbers. McPhail created this comedic world of social misfits who must fight off zombies while they are trying to understand themselves and depending on one another to stay alive. It’s a lot to take on when just making a straightforward narrative, so it is even more impressive when you are creating a film that isn’t afraid to blur the lines of multiple genres.
Casting is for this film is just fantastic. Ella Hunt who plays the title character, Anna is sensational. Hunt proves in this role that she is a remarkable talent and one who I embarrassingly wasn’t even aware of before seeing this film. I can and will say with all certainty that Hunt has an incredibly bright future ahead of her. Not only does she have an incredible voice but such a dynamic on-screen presence that demands your attention. My friend Michael Dequina mentioned after the screening that Hunt would be perfect to play Elphaba in the Wicked movie. I 100% agree with that statement so if anyone reading this is planning the movie version of Wicked, you really should consider Hunt for the role.
The supporting cast which includes Malcolm Cumming, Sarah Swire, and Christopher Leveaux bring their A-game to their roles. I feel like when you have a movie about a group of high school students it is easy to sort of create stereotypical characters and make them behave a certain way. However, all these actors made their characters feel like real genuine high schoolers rather than the stereotypes. I particularly enjoyed Malcolm Cumming as John. I think he’s going to become one of the favorite characters amongst the supporting cast. I do want to also quickly make mention of Mark Benton who plays Anna’s dad as well as Paul Kaye who played Principal Savage. I feel like Benton’s performance really added a lot of heart to the film, and Kaye nailed the over the top principal who was obsessed with rules. Like I said above, the cast is all around terrific with each character holding their own no matter how large or small of a role that they had in the film.
Anna and The Apocolypse is the type of movie that once you see it, you can’t stop thinking about it. It is a strange little film but one that works so well because it knows what it is and plays to its strengths. Everyone involved with this film is committed to the material. And I will warn you right now; you will want the soundtrack. There are at least four to five tracks on the soundtrack that I have listened to over and over again. With how many fans of musicals there are in the world, I can honestly see this being turned into an off-Broadway musical sometime later down the line. My greatest hope for this film is that it finds an audience and a home among the other great oddball musicals such as Cannibal: The Musical and Little Shop of Horrors. Anna and The Apolocypse is one of the most original films of the year and one that I cannot wait to watch over and over again.
Scott ‘Movie Man’ Menzel’s rating for Anna and The Apocalypse is a 9 out of 10.