Anna and the Apocalypse

 

 

            And now for something completely different: a zombie Christmas high school musical?

            It begins innocently enough:  a high school girl, Anna (Ella Hunt) is being driven to school, along with her classmate, John (Malcolm Cumming), by her Dad, Tony (Mark Benton).  What begins as a casual discussion about plans after graduation turns into an argument, when Dad discovers that Anna isn't planning to go the University, after all, but instead wants to do some traveling, and she's already bought a ticket to Australia.  Dad is so angry he finally flusters about how her Mother would have been disappointed in her, and since she's obviously deceased, Anna considers this a really low blow, and slams the car door in a huff on her way to her first class, yelling “I hate you!”, but she really doesn't.  And she'll need to buy back some tenderness later.

            It turns out that John and Anna are best of friends, and even work together in a bowling alley after school.   There are a couple of opportunities for musical numbers, and they're developed alongside some other students from school, like Steph (Sarah Swire), who's wanting to be an “honest” journalist, and therefore clashing with the teacher, Mr. Savage (Paul Kaye), and Nick (Ben Wiggins) who was briefly Anna's boyfriend, but now only succeeds in annoying her.  Sounds like typical high school stuff, right?  Except there's a stage performance that turns out a lot racier and more verbally suggestive than you would ever see in any high school production.  And, suddenly, in the background, we begin to see zombies.

            Yes, like the ones you see in horror movies.  Where the zombies only have to take one bite out of you and then you become one of them.  And then, like a staggering pack of wolves, they seek out the uninitiated for victims.  The only way you can stop them is quite violently, like bashing them on the head with a baseball bat (or, in Anna's case, a big candy cane prop from the school play).  Yes, it's a head-shaking juxtaposition, but that, of course, is precisely the point.

            For a while there, the music becomes scarce while our once-ordinary teenagers are seen fighting for their lives against the angry mob that once comprised their friends and fellow students.  But once the movie decides who, exactly, is going to survive all this (besides Anna, of course), we seem to remember to go back to the music, but sometimes we're singing literally while we're bashing zombie heads.  Or somebody dressed like Santa.  Or Frosty the Snowman.

            Ella Hunt has just the charm and verve to pull this off with tongue in cheek, but somehow all in fun, even the more serious parts.  We will probably be seeing her again, perhaps next time in a slightly more traditional role, but then, almost anything else would be.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association