An all-singing, all-shuffling ensemble deliver a pandemic in the key of George A. Romero in this 2017 zombie musical that one might call Song of the Dead.
The singalong story of a sixth-former (Ella Hunt) and her misfit friends clashing with the head (Paul Kaye) and the undead, John McPhail’s ghoulsical is like a ravenous version of The Breakfast Club where the students are the breakfast. It wears its influences on its blazer sleeves (High School Musical meets Shaun of the Dead. In Scotland. At Christmas.) and strays too close to its twin influences, particularly in the earnest musical numbers in dire need of a humour transfusion.
These are however brilliantly staged, especially Anna’s Shaun of the Dead-style oblivious walk to school and a zombie bloodbath at a bowling alley. But where Edgar Wright maintained the comedy even through emotional moments, here the jokes peter out in the third act. The saccharine setup seems designed to be subverted and gatecrashed by the living dead, yet the carnage never goes far enough and the tone stays as sickly as Anna’s giant candy cane weapon.
Anna and the Apocalypse does score on gore and peril missing from recent zom-coms like The Dead Don’t Die and Zombieland: Double Tap, and it has fun transposing its high school archetypes into a survivalist setting (the bully becomes the zombie hunter, the headmaster the coward etc). Sadly the predictable beats in the story, comedy and songs make it more Slaughterhouse Rulez than Shaun of the Dead, and make you long for a Ward & White take on this pupils vs. no-pupils pastiche.