Director: John McPhail
Cast: Ella Hunt, Malcolm Cumming
Release date: Out now
Reviewer: Simon Brew
Around 40 minutes into Anna & The Apocalypse, the sophomore feature from director John McPhail, the film takes a slight turn. We’re outside, in a pretty chilly looking Scotland, as Ella Hunt’s Anna walks towards the camera, belting out another terrific number, whilst all sorts of mayhem gradually ramps up behind her.
It’s an ambitious sequence, terrifically realised, and also a slight turning point in the film. To that point, the foundations are laid more in the style of a, well, high school musical, with Anna batting up against her dad (Mark Benton) over her future plans, whilst just about co-existing with a small bunch of friends and acquaintances at school. Amongst them are her best friend John (Cumming) and the terrifically scene-stealing Steph (played by Sarah Swire, who’s also the choreographer of the movie). There’s one more absolute scene-robber in there, too, thanks to Paul Kaye’s turn as a downright nasty, deliciously villainous headteacher.
Early on, then, we get the first of the film’s excellent songs (from Roddy Hart and Tommy Reilly), ‘Hollywood Ending’, that – like the film – zips along with fun, style and skill. But then gradually the film turns. For this is a Christmas musical horror comedy and, in this case, the horror comes – I’m not spoiling anything here – with a zombie outbreak. The high school movie gives way to something funny, with a good jump or two, and no shortage of gore. There’s little question you’re not getting your money’s worth.
I had a huge amount of fun with this. I suspect that depending on what you’re expecting, most people will warm to different parts of the film. You have to wait a long time for the horror to really kick in, for instance, whilst those seeking a more conventional teens up against it story may well find their interest waning before things wrap up.
For me, though, it works. Perhaps just a tad too long, the film nonetheless soars thanks to its spirited, engaging cast – Hunt is surely a star in the making – and tight pacing. Plus, its sheer desire to give you a really good night out at the movies. A bit of a triumph, this one.