Two Cents Bashes Zombies and Belts Showtunes Alongside ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE

Two Cents is an original column akin to a book club for films. The Cinapse team will program films and contribute our best, most insightful, or most creative thoughts on each film using a maximum of 200 words each. Guest writers and fan comments are encouraged, as are suggestions for future entries to the column. Join us as we share our two cents on films we love, films we are curious about, and films we believe merit some discussion.

The Pick

Anna and the Apocalypse got its start as a short film, titled simply enough Zombie Musical, about a Scottish schoolgirl named Anna whose high school experience becomes (more) hellish when a zombie epidemic breaks out.

Zombie Musical was the brainchild of young Scottish filmmaker Ryan McHenry, best known for his iconic Vine series, “Ryan Gosling Won’t Eat His Cereal”. McHenry was working on expanding his short into a feature film when he was taken tragically young by cancer, only 27 years old.

McHenry’s collaborators carried on with their efforts, and the end result is Anna and the Apocalypse. The zippy film follows starry-eyed Scottish teen Anna (Ella Hunt) who is just trying to survive a particularly dismal Christmas season when very suddenly her world gets invaded by flesh-eating zombies.

As Anna and her friends battle their way through the fiends with whatever comes in handy, including a great big candy cane lawn decoration in Anna’s case. The gang sings and dances like they belong on Broadway, and crush zombie heads like they’re making their way through a Romero film.

Anna and the Apocalypse is the kind of film designed to generate a devoted cult following, and indeed it did. Horror and musical fans quickly adopted the film as a new seasonal treat, and the fandom grows with each passing Christmas.

Are we ready to make Anna and the Apocalypse one of our favorite off-beat Christmas classics? Find out below!

Next Week’s Pick:

For our final week of the Christmas season, grab the whole family and watch the stunningly animated Spanish-American film Klaus, new on Netflix.

Would you like to be a guest in the next’s Two Cents column? Simply watch and send your under-200-word review to twocents(at) anytime before midnight on Thursday!

The Team

Justin Harlan:

How can a film be filled with excessive blood and gore and yet feel appropriate to watch with my family on a snowy Saturday December afternoon? I’m not sure, but somehow Anna nails it.

I’m not sure that I love this film, but I love that it unapologetically swings for the fence. It give zero fucks about blending teen romcom tropes with musical beats and visceral horror. The zombie film may be tired in 2019, but this zombie film is anything but.

Holiday horror has become one of my absolute favorite subgenres in any genre of film… and this one has surely earned many future watches. In others, I probably lied… I do kinda love this film. (@thepaintedman)

Brendan Foley:

There are absolutely moments throughout the film where Anna and the Apocalypse nails the particular tonal balance it’s trying to walk, playing like a slightly gorier answer to the Buffy musical episode. The young cast all shows up to play, the songs are cheery and catchy, and both the musical form and the zombie subgenre pair nicely with the typical trappings of teen angst.

But it’s in the combining of the two that Anna and the Apocalypse stumbles and never fully recovers. So long as the film is just a silly good time, it coasts on charm and festive energy. But in the film’s second half it attempts a tonal pivot similar to the third act of Shaun of the Dead, attaching real weight and grief to the mounting body count. Shaun of the Dead pulled that turn off beautifully and sits almost-perfectly at the intersection of horror and comedy. Anna and the Apocalypse face-plants and never fully recovers its mojo. It’s a noble effort, but one the film just isn’t built to support.

Those songs sure are catchy though. (@TheTrueBrendanF)

Austin Vashaw:

In the swollen zombie genre, it takes a little extra something to stand out. “Christmas-set Scotland musical” certainly does the job. Anna and the Apocalypse is a zippy, catchy, and actually often surprising spin on the zombie film.

“No such thing as a Hollywood ending”, promises the chorus to one of the earlier songs. That’s stated in reference to high school drama, but the film also keeps that promise by delivering up bold narrative choices.

I suppose I expected the concept to have a few more laughs — “zombie musical” seems inherently comedic, but the telling here is fairly straightforward, and the songs are actually pretty genuine expressions, whereas I guess I expected them to elicit more chuckles. But on the other hand, I really liked Anna and the other protagonists (John, Steph, and Chris — not Nick, fuck that guy) so clearly the approach worked.

Anyway musicals are a hard sell to me in general, so the fact that I generally dug is is firmly a win. (@Austin Vashaw)

Next week’s pick:

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