What a time to live! Christmas snow is falling, teens are singing at the top of their voices in the streets of Scotland and flesh-eating zombies have taken over the country. At least that’s the case in the black comedy of 2017. Anna and the Apocalypse. When you say them out loud, the words ‘british’, ‘christmas’, ‘zombie’ and ‘musical’ don’t sound like they belong somewhere to each other, let alone in the same sentence, but by a magical twist of movie magic, they work perfectly together. The result is a modern cult classic that’s simultaneously funny, dark and touching, all set to the beat of a mind-boggling soundtrack by Tommy reilly and Roddy Hart.
The film revolves around Anna Shepherd High School (Ella Hunt) as she navigates her relationship with her friend John (Malcolm Cumming), his father (Marc Benton), and her ex-boyfriend Nick (Ben wiggins) during a zombie outbreak. On paper, this looks like a familiar premise, perhaps one we’ve seen too many times before. But this is testament to an emotionally honest storyline of Alain mcdonald and Ryan mchenry in addition to the wise leadership of John McPhail that the resulting film looks like a breath of fresh air.
Rather than playing the oft-rumored zombie trope of original characters making bad decisions as they flee a horde of undead, Anna and the Apocalypse is unique in that it’s a surprisingly honest and healthy look at the worries, fears, challenges, and disappointments that come with growing up. Instead of painting adulthood and growing up as a magical experience and something exciting and full of promise, the film strives to show that while it can be, it often isn’t.
This is especially evident in Anna’s characterization. He’s a healthy character who is a good person and has done everything “right” in his life. She doesn’t get into trouble, gets good grades in school, has strong friends, and displays genuine love and affection for her father. Yet the perfect plan she hatches for her future – a year spent traveling the world before going to college – is quickly derailed by the sudden zombie apocalypse. Lesser films with teenage actors might be tempted to treat their young adult characters with kid gloves, but Anna and the Apocalypse resists. Instead, its main character suffers both sadness and disappointment to show the incredibly honest and harsh truth that being a good person doesn’t always equate to a bright future or getting what you want out of life. . As the characters remind us in the film’s incredibly catchy song, âHollywood Ending,â âWe’ve been living in a lie for far too long / And we’re tired of pretending / There is no end in Hollywood. ” The fact that the film is set to crush the myth that growing up is a singularly perfect and magical experience goes a long way in giving it (and its characters) great credibility.
But instead of stopping there Adouble nna on his emotional honesty through the innocence of his characters. As the zombie horde descends on Anna’s sleepy Scottish town, Little Haven, the kids do what anyone their age and position could do: they look to the adults in their lives for get help and advice. But it turns out they’re just as scared and ignorant as their kids. The army too. Even the principal of Anna’s school, Arthur Savage (Paul kaye), cannot be trusted. He is using the epidemic as a chance to bask in the chaos and the power he derives from it rather than protecting his students. “All of humanity is shattered / Our story is over,” he sings happily in “Give Them a Show,” “As the setting catches fire / So much fun.” The result is a chain of fear and confusion where each level of authority seeks help from the one above them, causing children to realize that their innocent belief that the adult protectors in their lives know what they are. ‘they do and will always be there to watch out for them isn’t always true.
Children arguably cope with the zombie outbreak and the chaos that ensues better than adults, even when they are forced to face another harsh truth that we won’t always have loved ones to comfort us. It’s when Anna’s dad is bitten by a zombie that the film’s honesty persists. Anna makes the difficult decision to leave him as he becomes one of the living dead, leaving her without guidance or parental support. She is understandably upset, but despite the challenges that life continues to present to her, she manages to mobilize the emotional resources to realize that she must move on. “Trapped in an instant, ready to fly / I have to find my own way,” she sings in “Break Away”, “Sooner or later it ends with a goodbye / We all have to go our separate ways.”
The lyrics of the songs in the film are often dark honesty, though paired with upbeat and wholesome melodies that make them more palatable emotionally. This is especially true at the end of the movie when Anna and her friends escape the zombies and manage to get to (alleged) safety. Because even after having achieved this feat, their future is still uncertain in terms of friendships, quality of life and long-term security. They have suffered trauma, have lost loved ones along the way, and have no idea where they are going or what will come next. “Oh, where’s the life that was mine?” Anna laments in “I Will Believe”, “But as long as there is hope, as long as I breathe / I will believe”. Here, the film shows that nothing is certain and that even happiness and security are temporary luxuries. But regardless of the many hard truths his characters face and the bitter pills they swallow, Anna and the Apocalypse stresses the importance of optimism and faith in a better future.
While the horror genre can be inundated with stories of the living dead, just undo Anna and the Apocalypse because another derivative zombie movie would be a mistake. He actually has something fresh and new to say, creating an honest dialogue between the characters in the film and the viewers. Between his catchy and well-crafted songs, his genuine and healthy character work, and his deep emotional honesty, he successfully adopts an unfailing outlook on growing up in a sincere and thoughtful way. After all, as Anna sings, “… nobody ever tells you when you’re young / Love isn’t like books, movies, or songs.” While this may be a hard truth to swallow, it is an honest truth. And in a world of generic zombie movies and sappy Christmas specials, it’s something to sing about.
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