Some enchanted evening, you might eat a stranger!
Yes, with “Anna and the Apocalypse,” the world now has a zombie movie-musical. The songs are as infectious as the corpses that walk the earth to satisfy their hunger for flesh, and the dances are as frenzied as the living people desperately trying to save their hides.
And, as if it weren’t campy enough already, the film is set during Christmastime.
What’s strangest about this almost-comedy, though, isn’t its mish-mash of unlikely genres, but the earnest approach to them. “Apocalypse” begins as a “High School Musical” look-alike with poppy group numbers in cafeterias and hallways. One song, “Hollywood Ending,” is a dead ringer for “Stick to the Status Quo.”
Then, after a silent night, Anna (Ella Hunt) and her mates awaken to discover their working-class Scotland town is crawling with zombies. Farewell, cuteness; hello, anguish. The friends go slashing through the snow, destroying countless foes. But human lives are also lost, and the movie’s sad moments are genuinely tragic. It’s hardly the musical episode we saw on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
Anna, a free spirit who dreams of taking a gap year in Australia, is joined in Jingle Hell by: her best friend, John (Malcolm Cumming), who’s in love with her; Steph (Sarah Swire), an American rebel; and Chris (Christopher Leveaux), a sentimental videographer. Together, the pals struggle to reach their families and other friends who’ve barricaded themselves in the high school — singing out their feelings all the way.
Their bleeding-heart tunes are mellow and contrast nicely with gushing blood and decapitations. The songs all have a wispy ’90s flair, and some of the ballads sound like a bargain bin, Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way.” That’s a good thing.
Not so good is the camera-work. Nobody can say that a ragtag group of filmmakers can’t churn out a good zombie film on a shoestring. “Shaun of the Dead” propelled Simon Pegg to stardom by doing just that. Unlike “Shaun,” “Apocalypse,” with too-steady shots and Scotch tape scenery, looks cheap.
Still, while the Rockettes are kicking and Santa Claus is “Ho! Ho! Ho!”-ing, it’s kind of nice to watch some zombies get their Yuletide asses kicked.
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