We have a new entry into the Best Christmas film ever category. Oh all right, maybe not, but when there is a competition for the most fun to be had in a Christmas movie, "Anna and the Apocalypse" will be there on the top shelf. This is a silly little mash up of "High School Musical" with "Shaun of the Dead" and the result is a delightful ninety seven minutes that will make you tap your toes and laugh out loud. The songs are sappy and although they don't consistently blend with the theme, they each have a winning charm to them that makes them worth listening to.
Just before the Christmas break at school, somewhere in Scotland, Anna and her father, the school custodian, have a set to over her plans at the end of her senior year. Anna and her best friend John, who is trapped in the friend zone, navigate the school's social castes and administrative politics as everyone is preparing for the big holiday extravaganza. Steph, the lonely American lesbian has been abandoned by her parents for a Mexican Holiday and her ex is not interested in spending time with her. Chris the nascent film director is deeply in love with singing star of the Christmas pageant Lisa, and she so desperately loves him back that they will inevitably break out into song about it. Also on hand for the proceedings is Anna's ex, Nick, the alpha bully of the cafeteria and about as deep as you expect. Throw in the self important, soon to be promoted headmaster at the school and your major cast is complete. All of these characters will get a spotlight moment or two in both song and plot development.
The Zombie horror is minimal and the Zombie humor is concentrated. There are three or four great visual jokes that land and a few that evoke nothing more than a chuckle. What makes this movie a success is the use of the musical aesthetic to keep us engaged. The songs and lyrics help lighten the mood, or entertain us for a couple of minutes, but they don't plow the story ahead. They are often stand alone moments that draw attention to the musical device, but they are so well staged and performed that you don't really mind. My favorite actually has the least to do with the Zombie Apocalypse and is mostly centered around a school pageant with lyrics that would make any adult a little uncomfortable when it is being sung by a teenager. Marli Siu provides the vocals and plays Lisa. Here is a sample for you.
I'd be perfectly happy if this was in the field with "Shallow" for the Academy Award.
This movie is a trifle filled with sweet treats for those with an off center sense of humor. If you think that the "Rocky Horror Picture Show" is a bad movie that has only the cult following to credit any worth to, then this film is not really for you. If you are a fan of Brian DePalma's underrated gem "The Phantom of the Paradise", you will most certainly appreciate the tunes and staging that make this story sing. And , if like me, you think "Gremlins"and "Krampus" are a nice antidote to over indulging in sentiment (which by the way I am all in favor of), then "Anna and the Apocalypse" is something you should seek out.
I'd hope that this would be a breakout success and become a perennial favorite at Christmas. Maybe TNT could run it 24 hours straight the day before Christmas. Unfortunately, the reality is there is no such thing as a Hollywood Ending. Which by the way, the movie already proves.