“Anna and the Apocalypse,” a holiday-themed, zombie-filled horror/comedy/musical, is unlike anything in theaters right now: It’s a low-budget U.K. indie that got its start as an award-winning 2011 short film. And does “Anna” deliver? Well, it does for a while.
Dear readers, if you think I am capable of passing up an opportunity to see a movie billed as “’Shaun of the Dead’ meets ‘La La Land,’” then clearly we haven’t met. “Anna and the Apocalypse,” a holiday-themed, zombie-filled horror/comedy/musical, is unlike anything in theaters right now: It’s a low-budget U.K. indie that got its start as an award-winning 2011 short film called “Zombie Musical,” written and directed by Ryan McHenry. (McHenry, a co-writer for “Anna,” died in 2015; the feature is directed by John McPhail.)
And does “Anna” deliver on its billing? Well, it does for a while. For its first half, the movie’s blend of earnest teen crooning and dismembered blood-geyser heads is pretty entertaining. The angelic-looking Anna (Ella Hunt, who has a young Keira Knightley vibe) is a high-school senior in a small Scottish town, arguing with her father (Mark Benton) over her decision to travel rather than go to university. As the school unveils its annual ragtag Christmas show (a “Santa Baby”-ish performance of a raunchy song is a highlight), no one pays much attention to what’s being frantically reported in the news: a zombie apocalypse, fast approaching.
There’s an irresistible scene here, straight out of the great zom-rom-com “Shaun of the Dead”: Anna blithely emerges from her home in the morning, singing winsomely about the beauty and promise of a brand-new day, while behind her are signs of carnage, or glimpses of people screaming as they flee the bloodthirsty undead. She (like Shaun, though he wasn’t singing) is too wrapped up in herself to notice. The song lyrics are often clever (I quite liked, in a song about Hollywood endings, “Things don’t work out that way / I’m not McConaughey”) and the cast is appealing, but “Anna,” though short, runs out of ideas — but not of fake blood — long before its ending. Nice spurting, though.
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★★½ “Anna and the Apocalypse,” with Ella Hunt, Malcolm Cumming, Sarah Swire, Christopher Leveaux, Ben Wiggins, Marli Siu, Mark Benton. Directed by John McPhail, from a screenplay by Ryan McHenry and Alan McDonald. 97 minutes. Rated R for zombie violence and gore, language and some sexual material. Opens Dec. 7 at multiple theaters.