RogerBW's Blog

Anna and the Apocalypse 19 May 2019

2018 Scottish zombie Christmas musical, dir. John McPhail, Ella Hunt, Malcolm Cumming; IMDb / allmovie. Zombies have risen, and we're all going to die. In a small Scottish town just before Christmas.

Which should be the perfect film for me, and in many ways it works. Sure, the "school life is hell" setup takes perhaps a bit too long before we get to the gut-munching, but that's a standard complaint with these things; and the songs aren't always that great, though No Such Thing as a Hollywood Ending is one I still find myself humming occasionally.

The film actively tries to recall Shaun of the Dead, particuarly with one sequence of an oblivious protagonist against a backdrop of suburban zombie chaos; but that's unfortunate, because Shaun is a better film, with something to say about the human condition, while Anna doesn't go beyond the basics. I like you, I don't like you, zombies are scary, the collapse of civilisation is great, you've been bitten and I'm going to have to kill you now. (Turns out killing zombies is really easy for untrained people with improvised weapons, which makes one wonder how they spread as far as they did.)

The actors aren't always up to much, and like many young actors they all tend to resemble each other, though Sarah Swire as Steph (aka "the girl who isn't the protagonist", with an effective Iszi Lawrence style going which doesn't do her any harm in my book) does a pretty good job. Their characters are pretty flat, though, with Anna being very obviously written by a man: she likes the bad boy more than her best friend, not because of anything the bad boy says or does but simply because that's the way women are, who can understand it right guys?

At the same time, the human villain is rather too obviously evil for the sake of being evil, even pre-apocalypse; it would have been rather more interesting and effective to show him as someone able to cope when times are easy but breaking down when things get tough. To me the narrative point of a character stressor, whether that's a zombie plague or a burning building, is that it shows people's true natures, and this is an opportunity missed.

On the other hand there an extremely effective scene inside an inverted ball-pit (don't ask), which mostly stays inside rather than showing the audience what the protagonists can't see. The film even starts off well-lit, though it gets sadly dark towards the climax.

Pacing is a surprising problem; most of the songs are loaded into the first half, and most of the zombie action into the second, where a better blend might have allowed for more effective ramps in dramatic tension from one scene to the next, rather than just within the scene. If I'd had to stop watching half-way through I'd have seen nearly all the good stuff.

All in all, well, it's OK; nothing I'd seek out, and disappointing based on my expectations for it, but still enjoyable if it comes your way.

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