The pool of Scottish film musicals is small but notable – there’s Sunshine On Leith, a jukebox musical of The Proclaimers’ hits; Stuart Murdoch’s God Help The Girl; and culturally insensitive Gene Kelly vehicle Brigadoon. They can step aside for the new baby in the family, and this one’s got some bite. Anna And The Apocalypse is (probably) the world’s first Christmas-set high-school zombie comedy musical. Less Brigadoon, more Brigadoom.
Teen Anna (Ella Hunt) is eager to get away from her sleepy hometown of Little Haven, but on the night of the high school Christmas concert, overseen by tyrannical teacher Savage (Paul Kaye), the undead start taking over. Amid an unexplained global zombie apocalypse, Anna and a group of misfits – including best friend John (Malcolm Cumming), socially conscious American Steph (Sarah Swire) and dickhead ex Nick (Ben Wiggins) – venture forth across town to rescue loved ones, including Anna’s dad (Mark Benton), trapped in the school. Oh, and everyone sings and dances quite a lot.
Anna And The Apocalypse is co-written by the late Ryan McHenry, known for his viral video series ‘Ryan Gosling Won’t Eat His Cereal’. He directed a 2011 short called Zombie Musical, of which Anna, as directed by John McPhail, can be viewed as an expansion. Bar some meandering in the second act, the feature format works well for this arguably tricky premise. The staging of action beats within musical numbers has aplomb, the main young cast have infectious charm, and the original songs by Roddy Hart and Tommy Reilly are catchy and rarely unwelcome.
Although Shaun Of The Dead isn’t a musical, that film comes to mind a few times when watching Anna And The Apocalypse, via their shared rhythmic syncing of undead duelling to a melody. Funnily enough, one of Anna’s original songs has a title not too dissimilar to Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now”’, featured in Shaun, as a possible homage. It’s a worthy successor in spirit and hopefully a call to arms for high concept Scottish genre films.
Anna And The Apocalypse is playing at Edinburgh International Film Festival. Find ticket information here.