Anna and the Apocalypse (4 stars)

Anna and the Apocalypse

EIFF 2018: This Christmas-set zombie musical is a surprisingly polished package

Like Glee spliced with Shaun of the Dead, this zom-com musical sees the deceased rise from their resting places to trample all over Christmas. The sophomore feature from John McPhail (Where Do We Go From Here?) might have been shot in Scotland but it features an array of accents which render the location less than distinct, though what it lacks in local colour it makes up for in commercial appeal.

Set in the nothing-ever-happens town of Little Haven, motherless teen Anna (rising star Ella Hunt) and her lovesick bestie John (Malcolm Cumming) are on the cusp of graduating secondary school and considering their next move when they find themselves in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. They hole up in a bowling alley with pals before making the dangerous transfer to their school in the hope of reuniting with their parents, including Anna's father Tony (Mark Benton).

'This isn't fun anymore,' moans a former zombie enthusiast after his umpteenth kill in a film that remains defiantly entertaining. Paul Kaye goes full pantomime villain in a wonderfully hissable performance, while there are hilarious scenes of zombies marauding in the backdrop as oblivious kids sing their troubles away.

In the context of all this carnage, the songs from Roddy Hart (The Lonesome Fire) and Tommy Reilly seem surprisingly effervescent; the perky pop and power ballads are performed with gusto by a fine young cast which also includes Sarah Swire as a prickly outsider and Ben Wiggins as Anna's highly punchable ex, who gets his own shamelessly swaggering musical number.

Although there's plenty of gore, Anna and the Apocalypse doesn't deliver much in the way of frights; the need to keep things up-tempo undermines any potential for tension, while it's better at being irreverent than earnest. But, even if horror and musical fanatics aren't natural bedfellows, this polished product deserves to find its audience. Boasting a self-aware streak a mile wide, it's a sure-fire Christmas crowd-pleaser that comes splattered with blood and sprinkled in glitter.

Screening as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2018. General release from Fri 30 Nov.

Anna and the Apocalypse

  • 4 stars
  • 2017
  • UK
  • 1h 32min
  • 15
  • Directed by: John McPhail
  • Cast: Ella Hunt, Malcolm Cumming, Marli Siu, Sarah Swire, Christopher Leveaux, Ben Wiggins
  • UK release: 30 November 2018

Motherless teen Anna (Hunt) and her lovesick bestie John (Cumming) are about to graduate from secondary school when they find themselves in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. Polished, self-aware and pleasingly irreverent zombie musical, spattered with blood and sprinkled with glitter, a surefire Christmas crowdpleaser.