One sleepy Christmas, a zombie apocalypse threatens the sleepy town of Little Haven, forcing Anna and her friends to fight, slash and sing their way to survival, facing the undead in a desperate race to reach their loved ones. But they soon discover that no one is safe in this new world, and with civilization falling apart around them, the only people they can truly rely on are each other.
Combining catchy pop tunes with blood and gore, Anna and the Apocalypse is what happens whenNight of the Living Dead meets Glee. Director John McPhail establishes an infectious joy throughout the film that effectively lampoons the ‘traditional Christmas movie’ by throwing holiday tropes up against the undead. (Lost holiday romance andsevered limbs? Take that, Lifetime Network!) Solid performances—especially musically—from its cast keep the tone light and the story almost absurd throughout most of the film (even if things do become more serious as the story progresses). In doing so, Annasets itself apart from other Christmas comedies, potentially giving it a long [after]life as a new cult holiday classic.
Interestingly, one of the key ideas throughout the film seems to serve as a reminder that one’s life rarely ever ends perfectly like it does in the movies. As Annabegins, each of the character are set firmly in the Hollywood staple of tropes. Whether they want to set out on their own, find true love or even simply be accepted for who they are, these teens could have stepped directly out of any ‘coming of age’ drama where we know they’re going to be okay.
Except they aren’t.
To its credit, this is a film that allows its character arcs to end in ways that don’t always reflect the traditional resolutions that we expect. Looking for love? Death awaits. Unrequited love? Probably won’t work out. While these teens yearn for life to be like they’ve seen onscreen, they soon find that their plans mean little when the apocalypse is nigh. Glossy dreams soon dissipate when faced with a wave of blood-thirsty zombies. (There’s even an entire musical number devoted to the fact that ‘there’s no such thing as a Hollywood ending’.) In fact, one of the more interesting ideas about the film is its interest in exploring how the individualistic interests of its characters give way to a deeper focus on community as things begin to slide into chaos. (It’s hard to sing about your personal hopes and dreams when survival becomes the end game.) As the film progresses, each character must decide whether to do what’s best for themselves or join those around them and serve something greater. In doing so, Annaserves as a reminder that, while individual goals are an important part of who we are, they pale in comparison to what can be accomplished when we come together.
In the end, Anna and the Apocalypse will admittedly serve a certain niche market. (Not everyone is looking for blood and gore in their Christmas whimsy.) Still, this is not something for which the film needs to apologize. It knows what it wants to do and who it’s doing it for (and it does it well).
Merry bloody Christmas to you all.
Anna and the Apocalypse is in theatres now.