I love a horror-comedy. When my husband and I started dating, we watched Dale and Tucker vs Evil together on a date. Krampus is one of my favourite Christmas horror movies. And of course, classics like Night of the Creeps and Gremlins are among some of my favourite movies full stop.
So I was intrigued to watch Anna and the Apocalypse from the moment I first learnt about it back in 2018. Throw in some musical numbers and it sounded like a recipe for something really fun and new.
Now that it’s 2020, I finally sucked it up and bought the movie to watch it. I promised my husband we’d watch it together once I finished watching it for this post.
Yeah. That’s just not going to happen.
Anna and the Apocalypse follows, unsurprisingly, a girl called Anna. She lives with her widower father in a small Scottish town. Around them, the zombie apocalypse is happening. But Anna and her friends seem oblivious as they prepare for the Christmas festivities.
The night of the Christmas show at Anna’s school, the pandemic spirals (and still everyone is oblivious). When Anna wakes in the morning for school, she meets her friend John in the cemetery. It’s there where they meet (and behead) their first zombie.
They head to the bowling alley where they work to find their friend Chris there with exchange-student Steph. The group of kids decide to hunker down until they can go to the school, where Anna’s dad and Chris’s girlfriend are.
The rest of the film focuses on the students’ journey to the school and the inevitable climax when they arrive there. An additional villain pops up along the way, but it’s handled so haphazardly that I didn’t understand it a bit.
The tone in the last third is especially uneven. That’s kind of to be expected when you get a horror-comedy. Rarely is it be pulled off. Shaun of the Dead, the movie which this is constantly compared to, is the prime example of this. And I don’t think this musical holds a torch to that, to be honest.
I unfairly had high expectations for this movie. Disclaimer here: I’m not huge on musicals. So why did I think I’d like this one? I always root for a movie that subverts the norm. Everything about this could have been everything I hoped for. My favourite movie is Phantom of the Paradise and my favourite musical is Toxic Avenger (god that says too much about me). So horror and musicals together are not something I’m new to.
Since I’m pretty biased, I broke my golden rule and read some reviews on Letterboxd. Quite a few people really enjoyed the songs. Personally, I can’t recall a single one, and a lot of them made me physically cringe as I watched. So I think it really comes down to taste preferences. That being said, I think the songs shined best when they were more tailored to the movie. Some numbers like “Hollywood Ending” felt pointless. They could easily be slotted into any other teen film.
Sometimes when we watch movies, we need to remind ourselves that we aren’t always the target audience. Not everything is for us! This is clearly meant for 14-year-olds. Hell, I was at the height of my zombie obsession at that age. I would have loved this to bits back in 2005. And this is exactly how this movie feels: 2005. It’s not really doing anything new here that wasn’t done over a decade ago.
Ultimately, though, I was hoping for a horror musical. But Anna and the Apocalypse is a musical first and foremost. The horror and comedy are a very distant afterthought. While I didn’t like it, I do think there’s a niche for it out there. It certainly has the ability to become a cult film for many.