A Christmas-themed zombie musical set in a British high school? I couldn’t buy my ticket fast enough and John McPhail’s endearing comedy, packed with just the right amount of gore and catchy tunes, didn’t disappoint.
The eponymous Anna (Ella Hunt) is in her last year of school and can’t wait to get away. Her overprotective dad Tony (Mark Benton) just wants her to go to college, perhaps to ensure she has better career prospects than he does as janitor at her school. The villain of the piece is soon-to-be principal Savage (Paul Kaye) and he does everything he can to make the lives of the students miserable, especially socially conscious Steph (Sarah Swire). Anna’s best friend John (Malcolm Cumming) secretly doesn’t want her to leave and is somewhat relieved when the zombie apocalypse begins.
Everything seems to gel in this movie; the leads are likeable and the characters gently caricatured, the musical numbers are catchy and purposeful and never seem to get in the way of the plot and there is enough grit and darkness to give the humour depth and provide pathos. Zombie gore and violence is gruesome but played for laughs as in Shaun of the Dead but with a greater sense of dread. I suspect there is a metaphor somewhere in there about coming of age and the legacy our parents leave us but it is a gentle one.
Overall, though, it is the characters that have stayed with me. I didn’t recognise any of the young leads but they all seem to be triple threat – able to act, sing and dance with zombies. Swire as Steph is a standout, Hunt kept reminding me of a young Katie Holmes and Chris (Christopher Leveaux) of David Tennant. Ben Wiggins as the class lothario and dickhead has the most interesting character development – his signature song is a high point – and I’m still humming Lisa’s (Marli Siu) naughty Christmas song.
Like the lovechild of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the movie, not the TV series) and Shaun of the Dead, I feel like this one might become regular Christmas viewing.
Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.