What a time to be alive in the coastal Scottish town of Little Haven as the school year comes closes with the end of term show with Christmas just a few days away, and Anna and her friends making plans for the future, her best friend John leaving for art school as soon as he graduates, and Anna herself planning university, or maybe a gap year…
Plans are derailed, for the show, for the holidays, for the future in any shape other than the impending zombie apocalypse when the town finds itself besieged by the living dead. The survivors barricaded in wherever they can find shelter, Anna must gather her friends and help them across town to reunite with their loved ones, their ordeal one of mayhem and music.
With its UK premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival attended by most of the principal cast, Anna and the Apocalypse is far from a typical Scottish film, an all-singing, all-dancing musical comedy of bonding and bloodshed in a small town where the teenage dreams of breaking away become the fading hope of getting out alive.
Directed by John McPhail from a script by Alan McDonald and Ryan McHenry with music by Roddy Hart and Tommy Reilly, the young cast of Anna and the Apocalypse are the greatest asset of the film, all enthusiastic and possessed of strong voices, led by Ella Hunt in the title role alongside Marli Siu, Ella Jarvis, Ben Wiggins, Malcolm Cumming and Christopher Leveaux.
The dependable Anna everyone’s shoulder to lean on, accustomed to coping for herself and for others since her mother died, the current situation is a stretch even for her resourcefulness although the kids are coping better than the cowed adults, in thrall to the bullying headmaster Arthur Savage (a tiresome one-note performance from Paul Kaye) who will puts himself above those in his supposed care.
Finding a better pace as the action moves beyond the confines of the school, the heavily produced pop numbers have a tendency to sound the same and restate what has already happened rather than expressing hidden emotion or advancing the slight plot, and despite the promise of one hell of a show Anna and the Apocalypse delivers instead a subversive high school musical which is never quite or dark as it should be in order to balance the inherent levity of the genre but still raises a bloody smile.
Anna and the Apocalypse is scheduled for release later in the year