4 Stars

Do you like High School Musical or La La Land, but wish they had more… zombies? If you answered yes, then boy do I have the perfect movie for you.

Anna and the Apocalypse is a genre mash-up akin to something like “Shaun of the Dead” meets “High School Musical”, but with its own unique stamp.

Anna (Ella Hunt) is just your ordinary, starry-eyed girl who dreams of leaving her small town and seeing more of life. Her best friend, John, is secretly in love with Anna, but is afraid of her going away and can’t quite tell her how he feels. Anna’s friend, Lisa, is preparing for her big solo at the school Christmas show, but is worried her boyfriend, Chris, won’t show up in time, all while trying to stay out of trouble from the school’s headmaster, the sinister, Mr. Savage.
These are your typical high schoolers with typical high schooler problems, that is until the zombie apocalypse happens. With the world at the brink, Anna and her friends must rescue their friends and family who are held up at the school and find a way out of their sleepy town of Little Haven. Also, there are catchy and spectacular musical numbers.

Beginning with the cast, all of whom make for an immensely charming and likable group of characters. Particularly Ella Hunt who stars as Anna, whose starry-eyed wonder and no-nonsense attitude makes her someone to root for, while further providing evidence Hunt is someone destined for stardom. The actors are all so charming and are gifted with a rich script that fleshes them all out that when they start getting picked off, you feel genuine sadness.

Directed by John McPhail, who shows a strong amount of showmanship in his framing, gives the musical numbers a grand sensibility, despite the shoe-string budget. There are roughly 10 songs packed within the 90 minute runtime and all are equally catchy and toe-tapping. A common issue modern musicals run into is that the songs all sound the same, but Anna and the Apocalypse smartly diversifies is soundtrack. We get a High School Musical-esque number involving the students and even staff members dancing around the halls, pondering what life could hold (“Hollywood Ending”, the biggest show stopper in the film). An uplifting number about making the world yours (“Turning My Life Around”), while both characters are oblivious to the apocalypse succumbing around them in humorous fashion. Even an 80’s rock ballad about the wonders of killing zombies (my personal favorite, “Soldier at War”). There’s a genre of music in here for everyone.

Damn near every aspect of this film just works. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, it’s tense and unflinchingly gory; it’s also extremely heartfelt, like any good classic Christmas movie. A film like this could easily turn cynical, but like it’s teen characters, the movie keeps its head high and aims for the stars.

Barreling towards its moving finale, the pace never slacks and the energy is consistent. Despite it’s cliches and unapologetic gleeful tone, Anna and the Apocalypse is a very fresh and original genre flick. If you hate horror movies, but love musicals, you’ll love this. If you hate musicals and love horror movies, you’ll love this too.