Greetings and Salutations, blog readers.
Today…we are going to be diving into a review (more like a recap) discussion of something that I love very much.
Anna and the Apocalypse.
A Christmas time, zombie, musical. With strong female leads.
This movie stands as a great movie, a great musical, and also, a great zombie flick. It also stands as a nice coming of age or pivotal moment of life movie.
And this, by the way, is why I can’t say this is a review, when most of my recap will be me gushing about how much I enjoy this movie musical.
If I ever have the money and means, I will gladly produce a stage show, because damn, this is a great show.
I mean come on. Christmas time. Scottish town. Zombies. Musical.
If you know me at all, you know I am in love with it already.
And, it was executed so damn beautifully.
So let’s talk about it. Warning…If you read past this you probably should either have already watched it…or not mind spoilers, because this is FULL of spoilers.
The movie opens with Anna in the backseat with her best friend, as her dad drives them to school. The radio plays news of some viral outbreak-and Anna changes it to something she had her dad smile about. Early on, you can see that Anna is his whole world, and you soon discover it is likely due in part or in whole, to Anna’s mother passing away.
Tony, Anna’s Dad, asks if she is going to the talent show that evening, and she says no she has to work. He says she should take a break once a whiles nd after she protests that she doesn’t want one, he jokes that she will regret that when she is at university the following year. Classic foreshadowing on Anna’s face, it is painfully obvious that isn’t part of her plans.
Never to fear, like a good musical, part of the personal drama shows up early.
Tony then asks John, Anna’s best friend, if he will take her to the show, and Anna cuts him off saying she has to work, and he does too. “Tell him, John” Anna urges as John digs into his jelly donut.
“Yeah, she’s gotta pay off that ticket.” John says sarcastically, not realizing Anna meant “tell dad you have to work.” Anna then reveals to her dad that she isn’t going to university, and the car ride is tense. When they arrive in the school, Tony confronts Anna about where she plans on going and when she explains it is a open ticket for Australia he goes off again, and ends up saying “if your mom could see you now.” To which Anna says “I can’t wait to be away from you, and runs inside.” Inside, John waits for Anna, and we meet my favorite character, Steph.
Steph is often described as a “bit of a weirdo” and assorted other not so great terms on recaps I have seen on this movie, so let me tell you what I know.
She is a lesbian, a political aware, savvy, smart young woman who wants to make a difference in a big world. Steph is a serious journalist, with a bit of a potty mouth, and frankly, is given a shitty hand at the start of this movie. She is from ” a whole other continent” and at her parents “first chance” they went to Mexico for Christmas. Her mom and dad went to Mexico for Christmas, after moving countries with their daughter.
That alone is shitty. She is obviously not fitting in well, being a bit serious and no nonsense, and likely hasn’t found her “place” at the new school…although the vice principle (and notably fantastic bad guy) Mr. Savage seems to hate her as much as any other student, so I guess at least she is part of the gang in that regard.
So Steph is gathering up the presents for some charity drive she is clearly in charge of, and Anna joins them inside, offering to help Steph with the packages. Steph says no, as her car is right outside.
The car being right outside is why Mr. Savage wants to talk to Steph, and we get plenty of information when he does. Mr. Savage first tells Steph to “kill the homeless piece” that she has written for the school blog, explaining that the council dictates funding, and it would upset them, and they need new computers, which is fair, and Steph opposes, explaining that it is a real problem, so she is going to go above him, to the principle. Also fair. Mr. Savage smiles and explains to Steph that she can go right ahead because the principle is retiring and come January “This school is mine.”
Mr. Savage then reminds Steph that “park your car on school property, your car becomes school property” And holds his hand out for her keys.
“Give.” He demands, and Steph gives her keys over. Will this matter later?
C’mon. Are you new here? Of freaking course it will.
So, now we get to get into…Our first big musical number of the movie, and one of the songs I love so much, “Break Away” in which Steph, Anna, and John all sing about the things they want to break away from. Fantastic number, and it is followed up by another after a bit of scene work.
So, in said scenes, we get to meet a few more characters. Chris, A good friend of the groups, who seems to be struggling to say something “real” with his videos, as we discover in a scene insert in “Break Away” Chris’s girlfriend, who we meet during lunch, is Lisa, who is performing in the talent show that evening.
We also have meet Nick, who is by Lisa’s definition, hot, “Body you can lick chocolate off of” but “who would have no self respect…” Which embarrasses Anna who has in fact, done the dirty with Nick.
Break away ends with the talent show rehearsal, where Lisa is getting ready for the show, Anna joins her so the group can make their way to the lunch room. In the lunch room, we have a bit of dialogue in which Steph asks for Chris’s help filming something “real” for his class, and also so Steph can get the story of the homelessness problem “out there.” Chris agrees, telling Lisa he will make it back to the talent show for Lisa’s special song about “Santa” (it’s dirty).
Nick throws some stuff at Steph, calling her “Annie Lennox” and John gets all “puffy” before Anna deflates him by saying “besides, it’s not like you could o anything” prompting the fantastic ensemble led and began “Hollywood ending”.
Fantastic song, in which the ensemble begins it by singing “No such thing as a Hollywood ending” and the whole lunch room (minus Nick’s friends, who try to dance along and are told no by Nick) dance and sing to the unfairness of the reality that there really is no such thing as a Hollywood ending.
“No such thing as a Hollywood ending. Because no body tells you when your young, life’s not like the books, films or songs. We’ve been living in a lie for way too long, and we’re tired of pretending. There’s no such thing as a Hollywood ending.”
The song sets up that John likes Anna, and Anna doesn’t want John. Anna does seem to have, at very least, some passing interest in Nick, despite him being a jackass.
He is pretty hot. And later on when he sings and kills zombies, yeah, total dream boat.
Lisa and Chris sing a lovely duet that foreshadows their inevitable death because we all want that overly gross loving couple in high school to die and turn into love struck zombies.
Okay anyways. So Mr. Savage also joins into the singing of the “no such thing as a Hollywood ending” singing, and he and Anna have a nice dark moment for a brief second that I loved, before the song completes in a really nice way, kind of capping off much of the life problems the characters are having. Basic, simple, very human problems. Wanting to leave the boring town you were raised in, like Anna. Wanting to do something real, like Chris, wanting to hang out with your boyfriend, like Lisa, wanting to get the real news, the real world, out there, wanting to tell the truths of the world, like Steph, wanting your best friend…it’s all pretty real, as far as I can tell.
Outside, Steph is locked out of her car, I assume Savage just made sure she couldn’t find him to get her keys. Anna tries to offer help and a bit of jokes, but Steph, who was dumped there by her parents and abandoned on the holidays, whose girlfriend won’t even pick up the phone, spend the holidays with her, or even come help her with her car..iuno, I feel bad for Steph, and I get why she lashes out, and she immediately feels bad for…saying “At least you don’t have a mom whose always on your case.”
Steph feels bad and tries to apologieze, Anna goes off in tears, and Steph, feeling bad, and now hating herself, takes off to get on with her evening without her car.
Anna bumps into a zombie as she leaves, but the tears obscure her vision. In reality, if they hadn’t had this interaction, the girls may have actually caught on to the outbreak of zombies sooner.
Alas, they didn’t.
So now we are at the talent show, where we see some fun performances, and Chris doesn’t make it…(we find out later he is stuck dealign with zombies at the homeless shelter.)
Lisa, despite Chris not showing up, does a great job singing a frankly, quite dirty song about fucking Santa.
Mr. Savage goes into the hall, annoyed with Lisa for the show, and hears something, presumably the zombie we saw earlier, outside, but when he opens the door, nothing is there. We do see blood marks on the outside of the door and school, however it is assumed Mr. Savage does not.
Interesting note, it starts snowing here. This movie absolutely follows the rule about rain falling and the “tone” of the movie changing, only here it is snow, and I love that they do that.
At the bowling alley where Anna and John work, they close up shop, kicking out some drunken bachelors on a stag night, and after John accidentally gives the cleaning lady a concussion by blinding tossing shoes into the bin, Anna and John begin to walk home in the snow.
The two have a back and forth about what the reindeer names are, which foreshadow (SPOILERS) John’s death. (Obviously he is going to die when he remembers all their names).
So the scene closes with them having discussed if she is doing the right thing, with traveling, and if he is, with art school, and then we have them both wake up to a “new morning. Feels different the before” in the song “Turning my Life Around” where the two walk through the town toward school, neither really noticing the zombie outbreak all around them..and it is frankly fucking hilarious.
Like seriously, the world is being eaten by zombies and heres Anna being like “It’s a beautiful day.” And John is doing the same, literally skipping and running, singing all about turning his life around and how it is a brand new day. “I’m ready, ready, ready, I’m ready, ready, ready…”
The two begin air guttering and dancing while singing at each other when they meet up in a graveyard, while he sings a song about cherishing today because you may be dead tomorrow and she sings about how its a beautiful day to be alive, further foreshadowing his death and her survivsl, in my mind.
The two have this lovely moment right before the reality of the zombies falls on them, nearly literally, in the form of a zombie in a snowman outfit, collapsing near them. Anna goes to help “I’m a first aider,” but when she sees the growling zombie, hits him with her backpack and joins John in running away. While John acts like a putz saying “mate!” a bunch of times, Anna uses a see-saw to take off the zombie head, and around this moment I realized I loved Anna.
John goes on about how it is a zombie and Anna says that isn’t possible, because cool as she is, she doesn’t face the reality of zombies easily, but I don’t hold that against her. The two start to worry about their parents when they hear explosions, and realize they need to get somewhere nearby and safe, and they are still too far from school, and home is also far away, so the two, using John’s keys, head to their job.
On the way, the two finally see their surroundings, including a giant Christmas tree on fire in front of a building.
Back and the school, we see some survivors in the school, huddled up and trying to stay calm. Mr. Savage seems to have control of it, but you can tell the situation will go sour fast. Lisa worries about Chris’s Grandma’s heart, which apparently has troubles, and his grandma worries about Chris. Lisa assures him that he will be fine, because Chris has seen “like every horror movie” out there.
Chris is with Steph, at the bowling alley, having used an open door to get in, left open likely by the concussed cleaning lady. The four then check the news and see that evacuation is being done by the military, complete with #evacselfie posts on social media prompting Steph to say “Well we deserve to go extinct.” We also learn “Justin Bieber’s a zombie” from their internet searches, and that the military has said to meet at the school for evacuation.
Of course we have just seen the military isn’t there and Mr. Savage is still hoping the military shows up, so we can assume maybe the military wasn’t able to get there or something.
Back at the bowling alley, The guys discuss which celebs would be zombies, and the ladies discuss which countries would still be fighting, when they hear a sound in the bathroom stall, discovering the cleaning lady, who has turned into a zombie. Steph, like the badas she is, kills her with the toilet seat, but their victory is short lived, when the stag party breaks through a wall. The ladies join the guys back in the bowling alley proper, and the four begin to try and fight the small group of zombies. Chris tells John to follow zombie rules, destroying the head, and this rule seems to work.
Steph has to deal with one nasty zombie, and eventually disposes of him by putting a spatula through his freaking mouth, into his brain, which is fucking awesome, and then she goes on the help the rest with their zombie issues, taking one out with a bowling ball and the rack at the end of the lane, saving Chris, who returns the favor when the spatula zombie comes back for seconds with Steph, as Anna and John finish off the one zombie they had to deal with.
John really holds her back, he really isn’t good enough for her, so it isn’t a “Hollywood ending” he is hoping for it’s a “hold her back” ending and that is trash.
Back at the school, Lisa tries to get Mr. Savage to help Bea, the grandma, and he then explains to “Miss Snow” that when civilization is on the edge, we “prioritize” which is heartbreaking because her answer to what we do when society is on the edge is to help each other.
Anyways, bombs go off, ending their convo, and as bombs drop around town, the cast settles in for the evening an another total banger of a song “Human Voice” is performed.
The next morning(I think it is morning), the group tries to figure out how to get to the school, as the army that had come to try to get to the school and secure this side of town, are now zombies. Chris has the moronic idea for them to hide on the inside of an inflatable pool, to hide from the zombies, and move that way through the town, which is easily the dumbest idea I have ever heard for avoiding zombies.
I mean it is the stupidest idea ever. Like Steph says “This is the stupidest idea ever, and we are going to die.”
The group quickly are cowering under the plastic pool, and before long, zombies are upon them.
And then Nick shows up, with his gross friends, “Alright Losers” and they kill all the zombies. Nick tells the group his dad is at the military base, the if they were going out, they should have brought some muscle, and then he and his friends proceed to sing another great song, “Soldier at War” all about being the very best at killing zombies. “When it comes to killing zombies I’m the top of my class. While you’ve been hiding, I’ve been kicking ass. I know the best form of defense is attack, I know what I’m fighting for, I’m a soldier at war.” Great number, some subtle choices the friends make that make the musical feel nearly meta. Not gonna lie, Nick is kind of way hot in this number. I like folks that kill zombies, but still protect all humans, even if before the zombies they were bullying them a bit. Like, yeah, that IS the dynamic. You can push around smaller folks, until shit goes wrong, then “big guy” it’s your job to kick their ass. Or something. Still, I love this whole vibe.
Nick, while an asshole, clearly loves being the hunter, top of the food chain, and likes playing hero, not evil hero, because he insists on escorting the group to the school, following them with his goonies to get them their safely.
Of course…his friends don’t really have names…and are overwhelmingly “red shirts”…so you can guess what happens when they come across a short cut that looks dark and scary but would get them to the school faster. Because apparently it is going to get dark soon…
And you can guess what happens to all Nick’s little friends. But before that, we are back at the school, where the parents are like “okay the military ain’t coming, we gotta bounce” and savage is like “No! This is my school!” And uh…we don’t see him do it, but he lets zombies in to eat the parents.
Back with the kids, the group makes the choice to go through the Christmas tree lot, which is dark and scary. Anna picks up this candy cane thing with a spike at the end, and the group make their way through. All of Nick’s friends die, and Chris nearly dies grabbing his phone he dropped, but Steph kicks a zombie in the freaking head.
The group talks for a brief moment, amongst themselves, before Nick and Steph lead the way out of the place they are in to continue. John and Anna have a nice moment of kidding with eachother and John say “by the way , I remember the names to the reindeer” and you know he’s gonna die.
So he lists the reindeer, holding his arms out proudly, and a walking zombie takes a bite out of his hand. A horde of zombies separate the group, and when Anna urges John to his feet, zombies begin approaching them. John, seeing Anna, in a moment of lobe, knowing he is dead anyway, wraps his body around hers and pushes through the crowd, sacrificing himself for her to live. He throws her to Nick, who gets pummeled by Anna while she cries for holding her back from trying to save John, until Steph gets Anna to stop, and the group gets lead by Anna who goes on a crazy awesome zombie killing spree. Great moment, where her friend, w ho sure, she didn’t love romantically, but she loved, is gone, so she lets grief fuel her, and Anna really kicks ass.
I could wax poetic for ages about how the guy who wanted to find “a way to get her stay” (Break Away) had to die to show this whole coming of age classical element, but I will try to keep things brief. But of course he had to die.
The gang arrives at the school to find Savage eating a Christmas dinner. “You are very lucky children, your parents almost left.” And leads them into a room, where he locks the door behind them.
We see this whole area of the school is full of zombies. They look for a way out, finding Savage at a roll down window. Mr. Savage has some asshole dialogue with the ladies, before blowing a whistle and announcing to the zombies “Pudding!” and sings his own song, “Nothing’s gonna stop me now.”
Mr. Savage is a great bad guy, a bad guy before zombies, a bad guy with them. Total pyscho, well done, and beautifully executed. As you may know, I am normally not a fan of humans being evil to humans when zombies are around, but, in this case, Mr. Savage is a well done character.
He also plays on the whole zombies in real life comparison to real zombies.
“I’ve been calling you all zombies for years! Now fuck off!”
So while he sings, the kids use a table to fend off the zombies and then pry open one of the roll down windows in the cafeteria, which my girl Steph smartly closes, before saying “I’ll go find my car keys, you go find your dad meet outside” and Nick and Anna take off after Savage searching for Anna’s dad, who Savage has hinted is alive “I can’t wait to show him your remains!” he had taunted Anna.
Steph and Chris head towards to room where Savage keeps stuff he takes from students, and hear some music, Lisa’s favorite song, and discover Lisa and Chris’s grandma, the later who has sadly passed, the excitement of running from the zombies savage let in, made her heart give out, but, she passed peacefully, and as Chris says “At least she’s not a zombie.”
The three head towards Savage’s office, inside what looks like a teachers lounge, which is, of course, full of zombies. Teacher zombies in the teachers lounge. Fantastic classical zombie elements of “as they were humans so they will as zombies”.
Nick and Anna continue to search for Tony, and Nick jokes that they are a dream team, prompting Anna and Nick to talk bout their actual history, “We’re a lot of things, Nick but we’ve never been a team” Nick assuming Anna is mad because people found out they had sex, and then finds out Anna was mad because they had confided in each other about their futures and then he dumped her like it was nothing. After Nick makes a pot shot at John, Anna asks what Nick has done for anyone but himself, and we learn that Nick had to actually kill his infected father, and his father’s request, which makes Nick break down a bit…but, zombies have arrived. Nick tells Anna to go on, and she says no, let’s face them together, but he pushes her, urging her to go, literally pushing her out of the way and luring the zomveus to him, all while singing his “When it comes to killing zombies I’m the top of my class” song. Anna takes off, and we assume Nick will die as he has tons of zombies on him.
Chris, Lisa and Steph, back at the teachers lounge, deal with the giant room full of zombies. Steph crawls under tables and arrives in the office, and Lisa and Chris observe that the zombies cam ne distracted with garland, which is hanging from the ceiling. Steph, while going through the confiscated stuff, finds a vibrator, and when she goes “ew” the zombies start heading to her, so Chris and Lisa put his phone (thank goodness he saved it, eh Steph?) on the TV, the footage distracted the zombies. While Chris and Lisa try to crawl out the same way Steph does, the video goes black, because of the low battery alert on his phone, and Lisa and Chris are (of course) both bitten. Meanwhile Steph takes out a zombie and gets to the door. Chris manages to turn the phone back on, and since the two are bitten, decide to just straight chill in that room instead, since they would die soon anyways. Chris holds Lisa and waves goodbye to Steph, who pushes down her tears, waves, and leaves.
Anna searches and finally arrives at the auditorium, which is still set up for the pageant. Savage has Anna’s dad all tied up with garland and lights, using Tony as bait for presumably Anna and the zombies, and yet, Savage seems surprised when Anna shows up, alive and ready to kick ass.
Savage, despite his surprise, joins in a duet with Anna all about the end of the world. “Give them a show.”
Great number, fun, love their back and forth, and the scene itself is fantastic…I mean she is singing and killing zombies.
With a freaking giant CANDY CANE.
I’m impressed, so is Tony, and likely, Savage too. Savage watches, singing about how a “Purge of this species is long overdue” and Anna instead fights for the side of humans.
Great song, all about a fantastic show, set across a great set, a wonderful fight, with fun zombies. Anna manages to beat enough zombies and run past the rest, to get to the stage, and free her father, who decks savage, after Savage says “group hug” and the two guys scuffle…
Savage ends up fed to zombies…but it wouldn’t be a movie if Tony didn’t get bit too.
So Tony urges Anna to leave, and Nick shows up, to help her leave her father. Yeah, Nick is that cool. Fought all those zombies and still made it to help Anna…because let’s be real, he probably likes her a whole lot more than he will be willing to admit. Nick picks up her weapon and takes her hand, urging her outside.
“Merry Christmas, Anna” Says Tony
“Merry Christmas, Dad.”
Anna and Nick make it outside only to be surrounded by zombies, with no escape in sight, so they sing a lovely song, ” I will believe” we see Tony start to turn, or at least, start to fall asleep and die, we see John as a zombie, we see Chris and Lisa as zombies, walking past each other and touching each others hand…as if even in death they remember their “Hollywood ending” dreams.
As all hope is lost, Anna and Nick sing, as zombies approach… and the two are ready to go down swinging…
“I’m sorry. ” Nick says
“Yeah.” Anna says in reply. And it starts to snow. Ahhh sweet tone change….
A car horn honks, zombies are knocked down, and we see Steph. “Boom! Saved your life!” Steph says as she unlocks the doors, looking a bit bloodier than we last saw her, but alive, and Anna and Nick jump into her car.
A question none of them can answer.
Because sometimes those big questions are never answered. Sometimes we never know where we want to go, or where we even SHOULD go.
Sometimes all we can do is fight the zombies in front of us. The Mr. Savage’s, the bullies…the actual fucking zombies.
“There’s no such thing as a Hollywood ending.”
Go watch this movie, please. It is available for steaming on Hulu, and the soundtracks available on Spotify…it is well worth the hour and a half you will spend on it.
Thanks for reading!