Anna & the Apocalypse Is a Perfect Coming-of-Age Christmas Movie


The Big Picture

  • Anna and the Apocalypse is a unique and honest take on the zombie genre, featuring an emotionally authentic screenplay and wholesome characters.
  • The film breaks the stereotypical portrayal of young adults and explores the disappointments and challenges of growing up.
  • Anna and the Apocalypse emphasizes the importance of optimism and believing in a better future, despite the uncertainties of life.

What a time to be alive! What a time to be alive! Christmas snow is falling, teenagers are singing their hearts out in the streets of Scotland, and flesh-eating zombies have invaded the country. Well, at least that’s the case in the 2017 dark comedy Anna and the Apocalypse. When you say them out loud, the words “British,” “Christmas,” “zombie,” and “musical” don’t sound like they belong anywhere near each other, much less in the same sentence, but by some magical stroke of movie magic, they work perfectly together. The result is a modern cult classic that is equal parts funny, somber, and touching, all set to the beat of a killer, toe-tapping soundtrack by Tommy Reilly and Roddy Hart.

Anna and the Apocalypse

A zombie apocalypse threatens the sleepy town of Little Haven – at Christmas – forcing Anna and her friends to fight, slash and sing their way to survival, facing the undead in a desperate race to reach their loved ones. But they soon discover that no one is safe in this new world, and with civilization falling apart around them, the only people they can truly rely on are each other.

Release Date
September 22, 2017

John McPhail

Ella Hunt , Malcolm Cumming , Sarah Swire , Christopher Leveaux , Marli Siu , Ben Wiggins , Mark Benton , Paul Kaye



What Is ‘Anna and the Apocalypse’ About?

The film revolves around high school senior Anna Shepherd (Ella Hunt) as she navigates her relationship with her friend John (Malcolm Cumming), her father (Mark Benton), and her ex-boyfriend Nick (Ben Wiggins) during a zombie outbreak. On paper, it sounds like a familiar premise, maybe one that we’ve seen too many times before. But it’s a testament to an emotionally honest screenplay by Alan McDonald and Ryan McHenry in addition to keen direction from John McPhail that the resulting film feels like a breath of fresh air.

Rather than playing into the oft-tread zombie trope of stock characters making poor decisions as they run from a horde of the undead, Anna and the Apocalypse is unique in that it’s a surprisingly honest and wholesome look at the worries, fears, challenges, and disappointments that come with growing up. Instead of painting young adulthood and growing up as a magical experience and something that’s exciting and full of promise, the film takes pains to show that while it can be, it’s often not.

‘Anna and the Apocalypse’ Is Led by a Great Main Character

This is especially evident in the characterization of Anna. She’s a wholesome character who’s a good person and has done everything “right” in her life. She doesn’t get herself into trouble, earns good grades at school, has solid friends, and displays genuine love and affection for her dad. Yet, the perfect plan that she makes for her future — a year spent traveling the world before going off to college — is swiftly derailed by the sudden zombie apocalypse. Lesser films with teenage casts might be tempted to treat their young adult characters with kid gloves, but Anna and the Apocalypse resists. Instead, it makes its main character suffer both sadness and disappointment to show the incredibly honest and hard truth that being a good person doesn’t always equate to a promising future or getting what you want out of life. As the characters remind us in the film’s incredibly catchy song, “Hollywood Ending,” “We’ve been living in a lie for far too long / And we’re tired of pretending / There’s no such thing as a Hollywood ending.” The fact that the film is willing to squash 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, Anna doubles down on its emotional honesty through its characters’ innocence. As the zombie horde descends upon Anna’s sleepy Scottish town of Little Haven, the kids do what anyone of their age and in their position might do: they turn to the adults in their lives for help and guidance. But it turns out that they’re just as afraid and clueless as their kids. So is the army. Even the headmaster of Anna’s school, Arthur Savage (Paul Kaye), can’t be trusted. He uses the outbreak as a chance to blissfully bask in the chaos and the power he gains from it rather than protect his students. “All humanity’s broken / Our story is done,” he gleefully sings in “Give Them a Show,” “As the set catches fire / Might as well have some fun.” The result is a chain of fear and confusion where each level of authority seeks help from the one above them, leading the kids to realize that their innocent belief that the adult protectors in their lives know what they’re doing and will always be there to look out for them is not always true.

Nothing Like a Zombie Outbreak For the Holidays

musicals-Anna and the Apocalypse

The kids arguably handle the zombie outbreak and ensuing mayhem better than the adults, even when they’re forced to face yet another hard truth that we won’t always have our loved ones around to comfort us. It’s when Anna’s dad is bitten by a zombie that the film’s honesty persists. Anna makes the hard decision to leave him as he turns into one of the undead, leaving her without parental guidance or support. She’s understandably upset, but despite the challenges that life continues to throw at her, she manages to summon the emotional wherewithal to make the realization that she must move on. “Trapped in a moment, ready to fly / I’ve got to find my own way,” she sings in “Break Away,” “Sooner or later it ends in goodbye / We all have to break away.”


‘Anna and the Apocalypse’ Review: The Christmas Zombie Musical You Didn’t Know You Needed

The Scottish horror musical is a kickass cult classic in the making.

The lyrics of the film’s songs are often darkly honest, though paired with upbeat, wholesome melodies that make them more emotionally palatable. This is especially true at the end of the film when Anna and her friends escape the zombies and are able to drive to (alleged) safety. Because even after managing this feat, their futures are still uncertain in terms of their friendships, quality of life, and long-term safety. They’ve suffered trauma, lost loved ones along the way, and have no clue where they’re going or what comes next. “Oh, where is the life that once was mine?” Anna laments in “I Will Believe,” “But while there’s hope, while I still breathe / I will believe.” Here the film shows that nothing is certain and that even happiness and safety are temporary luxuries. But regardless of the many hard truths its characters face and the bitter pills they swallow, Anna and the Apocalypse emphasizes the importance of optimism and believing in a better future.

While the horror genre may be inundated with tales of the undead, simply writing off Anna and the Apocalypse as another derivative zombie film would be a mistake. It actually has something fresh and new to say, creating an honest dialogue between the film’s characters and viewers. Between its catchy and well-crafted songs, authentic, wholesome character work, and deep emotional honesty, it successfully takes an unflinching look at growing up in a sincere and thoughtful way. After all, as Anna sings, “…no one ever tells you when you’re young / Love’s not like the books, the films, or the songs.” While that may be a hard truth to swallow, it’s an honest one. And in a world of generic zombie films and sappy Christmas specials, that’s something to sing about.

Anna and the Apocalypse is available to stream on Shudder in the U.S.

Watch on Shudder


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