Life begins at the end of your comfort zone, do one thing that scares you every day, live for today cause you might be dead come tomorrow. These are the #lifequotes that drive me to live my life to the fullest every day. Which is why I enjoy engaging in risky behavior such as, seeing a movie in a theater without watching a single trailer or reading a review. I know, insert shocked emoji here, am I right?
Sometimes this risk pays off in a big way, like A Quiet Place. Other times it leads to me sitting through an entire musical-zombie-Christmas movie (Yes, apparently that’s a thing), somehow too mortified to stay and yet too embarrassed to leave. And to think, I was shocked when I walked into a completely empty movie theater. That should have been my first sign.
It’s clear what Anna and the Apocalypse wants to be: “What would happen if we took the main character from Lady Bird put her in Scotland to sing and dance like La La Land? Except there’s zombies! Not like, 28 Days Later zombies, but like, Shaun of the Dead zombies! Oh and make it Christmas-y!”. In reality it ends up being a Christmas special of High School Musical with zombies. It feels like a movie studio playing Dr. Frankenstein and ends up echoing Jurassic Park, “just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should.” The movie, much like the zombies it depicts, is not natural and should have been mercy killed from the beginning.
If I’m being honest I was rooting for this film. The characters have heart, the comedy has it’s moments, and the end result is bleak while still uplifting. The biggest problem the film had is the music. With the exception of maybe two songs the music felt either cheesy or forced or straight up tangential. I don’t pretend to be a musical expert but I believe musical songs have two purposes to serve, either be so catchy you can’t help but to sing along or move along the story or, preferably, both. Anna and the Apocalypse failed to accomplish either of those tasks the majority of the time. Instead the music comes across as if it was tagged on at the last second in order to spice up an otherwise by-the-book zombie movie.
Which is really too bad because, despite the questionable intentions behind the creation of the film, it does possess some beautifully brilliant moments that makes you believe they could have pulled it off. The highlight being one of the two songs I enjoyed in an early scene that has our heroine Anna waking up feeling refreshed and ready to conquer the world. She puts her ear buds in, walks out her front door singing, “I’m waking, spent too long playing dead. I’m shaking these blues out of my head” while in the background the dawn of the zombie apocalypse is in full swing. It starts off uplifting and turns into full borne comedy reminiscent of Shaun of the Dead and ends on a zombie kill straight out of Zombieland. It’s a scene that could have felt like an obvious, over-done, skit on Rudy Mancuso’s YouTube channel but here it was engaging and fun enough to force me to sit through the rest of the movie chasing the high it gave me. Unfortunately that high never came back.
In the end, this movie left me asking, “why?”. Or perhaps more accurately, “who?” as in, “who the hell was the target market for this thing?”. And that’s the most heart-breaking thing about this movie. Typically after I see a movie I mentally categorize who the movie was for. I find this helps me analyze and review it more fairly. I find it impossible to compare a horror film to a romantic comedy so I attempt to put myself in the shoes of the target audience and then ask myself what I thought. It’s why I am more favorable to an odd movie like Sorry to Bother You because I know that movie would be loved by a bunch of weirdos (I mean this respectfully, I love weirdos) even if a typical movie-goer would be repulsed. And that’s where the tragedy behind Anna and the Apocalypse begins. I’m rooting for the movie for it’s brief moments of gold but who is flocking to even rent this movie? It’s too musical for typical zombie fans. Too gore-y for typical musical fans. High school-ers would probably feel too cool for it’s slow moments. Maybe the one intersection is the indie-girls (or guys) who are into cult movies like Ghost World. However I still hesitate there because, despite the movie’s third song “Hollywood Ending” explicitly claiming “This isn’t Disney”, it feels thoroughly Disney-fied.
I’m left confused and slightly regretful of the time I spent with this movie. The only silver-lining is that I don’t have to worry about fans angry with my review grabbing their pitchforks and bats to come after me because, much like zombies, they don’t exist.