Coming just in time for the festive season is Anna and the Apocalypse, the UK’s alternative Christmas movie for 2018 which debuted at Fantastic Fest in America to audience acclaim.
It’s “not just a great movie,” said Dread Central, “but a great musical as well”. Anna and the Apocalypse, which stars Ella Hunt in the eponymous role, arrives just in time for the festive season and provides Britain’s alternative answer to the Christmas movie in 2018. Directed by John McPhail, the film is an feature length adaptation of the 2010 BAFTA-winning short Zombie Musical, and sees Anna and her pals sing and slash their way through a zombie invasion.
Debuting in the US at Fantastic Fest, audiences loved the combination of horror and musical, which saw the film trend on Twitter throughout the festival. In the UK, the film was screened at the Edinburgh International Film Festival and merited with the tag of “top 5 must-see films” of the festival by the Scotsman Newspaper. The director was amongst those nominated for Best Feature Film at the 2018 British Academy Scotland Awards too.
Shot on location in Scotland, Anna and the Apocalypse also won the Audience Award at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, while lead actress Ella Hunt was named Screen FrightFest Genre Rising Star 2018 in addition to being nominated for Best Actress at the Scottish BAFTAs.
Variety’s Richard Kuipers said the film was more than just a “throwaway novelty” but highly effective thanks to its “emotional underpinnings”. Amy Nicholson, writing for Indiewire, said: “Anna and the Apocalypse plays on every emotion – to use a musical analogy, it’s a skeleton whacking its ribs like a xylophone.” Charlie Oughton of Starburst gave the film 10 out of 10, saying: “A knee-bouncing, zombie cracking adventure that has the guts to put its daring artistic vision forward without compromise. It’s sickly sweet and genuinely original.”
McPhail told Screen Anarchy about the reaction the film had enjoyed at festivals around the world. “The first screening [in the US] went really well, there are certain jokes in there that are very Scottish and it’s really nice to hear them coming off. There was a bit of a difference especially in the first screening at Fantastic Fest, and then at Sitges, because the audience are just nuts, they’re all up shouting and whooping and clapping. The UK are usually more reserved, but the screening last night [at the Edinburgh International Film Festival] was mental, people were cheering and clapping, so it was nice to get that reaction from the home audience.”
He says it was important to make a good horror film because he’s such a fan of the genre. “I grew up watching John Carpenter and Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson movies, Wes Craven movies. So I always wanted to do horror, in fact I was writing one and I was really terrified about it, because like I say, it’s my favourite genre and I didn’t want to ruin it. I didn’t want to be bad at making one!”
The combination of horror and musical is a interesting one, however. McPhail told Birth.Movies.Death: “My favourite musical is South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut. I watched so many musicals for the first time when I got the job, like it wasn’t a stipulation that the guys were looking for but I wanted to have musical knowledge. Music’s had a massive influence on me, just as far as storytelling goes, I think some of the most amazing stories are just told from music and songs.”
Actress Ella Hunt told Birth.Movies.Death that McPhail’s lack of experience within the musical genre was good thing. He’s brought a “really original take on what a musical is” and that means the film is “not driven by being a musical, it just happens to be one. That was really cool, having a director that wasn’t driven by jazz hands.”
Anna and the Apocalypse is released in cinemas nationwide on November 30.