When Dane Dehaan called Life After Beth a “zom-com-rom-dram,” I thought we had reached the peak, but ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE is here to add “Christmas musical,” to the bit.

Based on the 2011 short, Zombie musical, by the late Ryan McHenry, ANNA AND THE APOCALPYSE follows the interwoven stories of high school students coming to terms with the end of high school, what’s next, relationships, family, and the end of the planet as we know it. It’s one part The Breakfast Club, one part High School Musical and two parts Dawn of the Dead.

The stories of Anna, who wants to travel after graduation at the behest of her father, John, her best friend with an unrequited crush on her, Chris, the film nerd trying to find his voice, and Lisa, the sexy student with the heart of gold, aren’t much more than familiar tropes.  They’re well developed and familiar, but aren’t what makes the film fresh and creative. While the film is full of comedy, the jokes are never on the students, and its obvious writer, Alan McDonald and director, John McPhail, are on side with their characters allowing you to see the comedy through their eyes.  You laugh with them, not at them, even when they’re being peed on by a zombie through a plastic pool.

Toronto local, Sarah Swire, who attended the screening in a Mats Sundin jersey, described how McHenry’s friends came together after his passing to ensure the follow through of his legacy. The film is now nominated for a Scottish Bafta for Best Feature.

Swire steals the show as Steph, the foreign student whose parents are travelling without her and who’s girlfriend she won’t get to see for the holidays, with her expert level annoyed facial expressions and nervous dance moves.  Swire also choreographed the dance scenes alongside Emma Claire Birghtlyn, the film’s fight choreographer.

The plot isn’t bogged down by the overuse of music, and the tracks are reminiscent of Meatloaf’s Bat out of Hell.  The meta-use of the first big number over the last scene is super well done, and a testament to the intentioned use of the songs.

The film boasts its use of practical effects and intentioned blood mapping, and it shows.  The gore is pointed and well used, and the movie never crosses over into a CGI blood fest.

It’s impossible not to compare this to Shaun of the Dead, and the movie seems to know it.  It comes complete with its own musically coordinated zombie horde massacre a la Shaun’s Don’t Stop me Now, and a scene of the oblivious stars waltzing through their neighbourhood on an otherwise normal, but zombie filled, morning.

Overall, this holiday season-zom-com-song-rom-dram is a lot of fun and could weasel its way into the “off beat” holiday faves of those who claim Batman, Gremlins, and Die Hard as their go-to holiday flicks. #DieHardIsAChristmasMovie

ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE is scheduled for limited release on November 30, 2018 in UK, US and Canada.

Lindsay Traves
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