Anna and the Apocalypse – Film Review by Aisling Foster
Director: John McPhail
Writers: Alan McDonald, Ryan McHenry
Stars: Ella Hunt, Malcolm Cumming, Sarah Swire
If you’ve seen any zombie movies – especially Shaun of the Dead – then you’ll know the formula. The biggest difference here is a bunch of sixth formers who, while obsessing the usual teen stuff of sex, exams and the school Christmas show, have a tendency to break into song at unscheduled moments. Uninterested in larger events, they have ignored the news of a toxic brain virus which has been sweeping across the world. So, when the infection blunders up their nice suburban streets in the shape of man-eating ex-humans, Anna (Ella Hunt) assures her friends “There is no such thing as zombies!”
Wrong. People are advised to stay indoors, but by nightfall the school hall is packed with adoring families (mummies and daddies displaying a nice mixture of shock and horror at the very ‘adult’ material their little darlings are playing out on stage) while ever-increasing hoards of the un-dead slobber ever-onward in a shuddering progress towards the gates.
Meanwhile, more zombies threaten Anna and her friend John (Malcolm Cumming) on the other side of town. Like any modern hashtag woman, Anna rises to the challenge. Before long the screen is drenched in blood – mostly zombies’, cheerfully bludgeoned to death by a gathering band of bright young things as they fight their way back towards school.
Soon they are wading in blood, accompanied by some striking sound effects as red liquid is splashed over everyone or noisily sucked by zombies (if you like that kind of thing, the most comic is a zombie head in contact with a lavatory seat). Sometimes the tension is slowed by yet another song and dance, or one more confrontation. But those moments allow some sharp performances and (unusually for this genre) a more thoughtful take on life and death: when an old lady dies of heart failure, her philosophical grand daughter reflects that at least she escaped being chewed into everlasting zombie life.
As for Christmas, when the kids sing “There’s No Such Thing as Hollywood’ we know we can’t presume too many happy endings. Good characters come to bad ends, as when two infected young lovers hug one another goodbye or when the lights on a blood-smeared Christmas sweater continue to flash on the chest of a freshly-bitten friend.
Indeed, the only baddie in the mayhem is Headmaster Savage, played to the comic hilt by Paul Kaye. Bristling with rage, screaming with a lifetime of hatred for all his pupils and their dislike of him, he is madder than any flesh eater threatening the school.
All in all, Anna and the Apocalypse is a fun watch for the silly season. My only quibble is the film’s racial mix – or total lack of it. How, even in make-believe middle England (or Scotland where this film hails from) can an entire population – even the un-dead – be so unambiguously white Caucasian? This suggests an even more deep-seated fantasy than a belief in zombies.