Moviefan12: Horror musicals are an interesting beast. There are plenty of popular ones like Sweeney Todd but finding a balance between telling a horror story and using songs to advance the story is a tricky feat to balance. Even more when you have a zombie musical. When it comes to zombie musicals, they can go one of two ways, They can either be about the zombies or feature the zombies and show what the characters facing off against the zombies are going through. This is something that was seen in the 2017 British film, Anna and the Apocalypse. This movie is a Christmas horror musical and while on the surface that may seem to be an odd combination, it works. now just because I described it as Christmas do not mistake that for thinking the songs are Christmas heavy but rather that film taps into one of the most important emotions of the holiday season. That being hope, hope for a better future, and hope that things will be better.
Moviefan12: In many regards, that seems rather appropriate for the year that we’ve had in that we have to face down a lot of craziness but holding onto hope is one of the most important elements that I took from this movie. Admittedly, my original curiosity was because the idea of a zombie Christmas musical was so absurd that I had to see how this worked. And it really does work. Now, I will not be looking at this film alone as I’ve invited fellow Expressionist and lover of Horror movies to come along on this ride of zombie decapitation during The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Please welcome here to help cover this wonderful musical, The Creature.
The Creature: Ah yes, a Horror Musical. A lot of people love throwing in a musical number in the midst of blood-soaked chaos like Sweeney Todd or Repo! The Genetic Opera that end up fairing over pretty well for the most part. While there are many different films of this variety out there, this was one I admittedly had never heard of prior to this moment. Given that it’s not only a Horror Musical but also a Holiday Horror movie set during the Christmas season with zombies made it all the more curious for me to take a look at it.
Moviefan12: My interest was admittedly two-fold as I like holiday musicals and when I first learned of this film, I was taking a college course on zombies and one of the assignments was to do a paper on a zombie movie. This was one of the films that I considered but in the end, I decided to go with Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island. I didn’t end up seeing this film until a plane ride to California. I’m glad that I saw this movie as it’s become a favorite and will become one that I watch every Holiday season from here on. With that out of the way, Creature are you ready to behead some zombies as we hang up the tinsel.
The Creature: I suppose I could break out some nutcrackers and bash them over the head of the undead. Let’s have a go at this film.
Moviefan12: The plot is admittedly simple at first, Anna and her friends live in Scotland and she is about to finish school. What’s most interesting is that the film for quite a while plays a teenage drama as we get to know and meet the characters long before the zombies invade. Take Anna for example as she is hoping to take a year off before heading to college and go to Australia. Her father disapproves of this idea. Then there’s John, who has a crush on Anna but is too afraid to do anything about it. This’ll come up later but he has one of the most important lines in one of the earliest songs in the movie, Hollywood Ending.
I’m starting to realize
Sometimes the nice guys
Don’t always get the girl
Those lines while seemingly are heartbreaking do speak to the truth of the movie, this movie will not give our characters the happy ending they have dreamed of. There’s also Steph, who I know is a transfer student, I think from the States and I also believe the movie is implying that she may be bisexual as she does have an offscreen girlfriend but she also seemingly has feelings for another member of their friend group, Chris who already has a girlfriend. Steph is one of the best characters as she is a social activist and does put words into action. And she, in the beginning, does have the most opposition with Vice Principal Savage, one guess as to who the villain is. Now Chris and Lisa are actually sweet as they have a sickly sweet relationship that they’ll promise to never leave one another’s side. This’ll become very tragic as the movie goes on. Creature any thoughts on these characters before we move into the meat of the story.
The Creature: The characters in the film seem like some characters that have become quite common to see in recent High School films and Television. Anna wants more out of life who has a difficult relationship with her father, Chris and Lisa are the over-the-top couple who are constantly with each other, John is the “obviously in love with Best Friend” guy and Steph does come off as possibly bisexual who has a bit of bad luck at the beginning of the film. The film also has Anna’s ex-boyfriend who seems like he’s trying to impress her and win her back even though she’s not having any of it. While they may seem like stereotyping certain tropes, their performances make them stand out amongst them…and yeah, Vice Principal Savage is so obviously the villain in the film. He’s not even trying to hide it. You might as well have a shirt reading “Antagonist” on him at all times.
Moviefan12: My colleague here is correct in his summation of the characters. Now, one of the important things that need to be understood is how the film sets up the zombies. As the audience learns of the existence of the zombies before the characters as half the characters are taking part at a school Christmas show and this moment gives us a bit of a breather with things such as the absurdly funny Fish Wrap while Anna and John are working at the bowling alley. This also has one of my favorite bits of the movie where Anna and John are trying to remember the names of Santa’s reindeer.
The big reason that a moment such as this works is that it sells the chemistry of these two and you buy that they’ve been friends for years. It’s dorky cute and real all at the same time. So, the next morning we get an ironic moment where John and Anna go through their morning unaware of the zombies as they are listening to a song about turning their life around. That is until we get our zombie attack and it is of a zombie in a snowman costume. That is freaky and funny at the same time.
This is also where we see that movie is not afraid to get gory as Anna decapitates Frosty here with a teeter-totter. Creature, your thoughts on the gore and kills and how they work in the musical format.
The Creature: Given that it’s a zombie movie, it comes as no surprise that it would be graphic. Granted it’s not going to be a blood-bath like “Braindead”, but it has enough gore that would satisfy most horror fans. A large portion of it is covered during the musical numbers as they fight off zombies while trying to reunite with their friends back at the school like when Anna’s ex and his lackeys boast about surviving this nightmare while violently killing zombies (which feels like watching the Gaston song from “Beauty and the Beast” with a zombie twist). It’s appropriate for a musical in the Horror genre that is quite the sight given that some of the zombies are being killed off with Anna sporting a giant candy cane for her weapon of choice.
….and yeah, the Fish Wrap was easily my favorite song in the film.
Moviefan12: While that is not my favorite song in the film, it is a nice breather song before the tension revs up. However, I believe that just as how we get to see the attacks during the musical numbers, they also help us to know the characters. And I believe that is the best way to know the characters.
So, with that out of the way, let’s dive into the music.
Christmas Means Nothing Without You
Moviefan12: As I stated at the top, a lot of these songs aren’t overly Christmassy. At best, you have three actual Christmas songs in the film. This one, which is played over the opening, one Lisa sings before everything goes to smithereens, and one that plays over the closing credits. As for this song itself, it’s interesting because while listening to it, I get Mariah Carey vibes. As it sounds so much like All I Want For Christmas is You. Perhaps that was intentional and I wouldn’t put it past the filmmakers do something such as that. It’s not a bad song and does help set the Christmassy mood before the zombies come in.
The Creature: The song does let you know right off the bat that this is during the holiday season which would make it quite the contrast in tone given it soon will be overrun by zombies. Given the fact that it sounds like that Mariah Carey song, this song got annoying to me (mostly due to mass exposure to it in my retail years) so it doesn’t really end up being a favorite of mine.
Moviefan12: One of the most important types of songs in any musical is the “I Want” song as it lets us into the minds of the characters and knows what their dreams and hopes are. This song here goes back to what I brought up earlier in how the beginning of this movie plays like a teenage drama as we hear the kids just want more than well this provincial life. This song helps to set up how they either want to be noticed or want to know why people don’t care. It’s quite an interesting idea as I believe that this song speaks to one of the biggest feelings that we go through as teenagers, being ignored and feeling as though people don’t care and thus why should we care. Anna has one of the best lyrics in this regard.
If I still had some faith, I’d pray
The Creature: Ah yes, the “I Want” song for the musical. As you’ve stated, it’s pretty much the song in which the teens express their desire to seek more out of life outside of school than what they’ve been given so far in regards to how they’ve been treated over the years. It is very similar to a lot of things that I’ve seen in other teen movies (and a few Disney songs as well) so it will come across as a bit of familiar territory for the audience.
Moviefan12: I find this song quite interesting and even more so considering that it comes after Break Away. That song was the characters’ I Want moment whereas this song is the realization song. What do I mean by this? Well on its own outside of the context of the film, this song seems like a nice piece of bubblegum music. However, knowing what is to come and what is going to happen to the characters, this song serves as a bit of tragic foreshadowing. This ties back into the idea of holding onto hope while also understanding that this film is not going to give our characters what they want. As the song puts it, there’s no such thing as a Hollywood Ending. And the sooner you understand that, the better.
The Creature: It is a bit ironic hearing this song in the film considering they’re about to come across the zombie apocalypse the very next day so it does come off as tragic foreshadowing for them.
The Fish Wrap
Moviefan12: My colleague noted that is his favorite song in the movie. I cannot say the same. This is not a bad song as it’s funny but in the grand scheme of things, it’s relatively unimportant to the story as these two characters are extremely minor and it doesn’t advance the story like the other songs or like Lisa’s number after this show off one of the more important characters. It is a nice breather song though and you do need those every once in a while but it’s not what I return to.
The Creature: I’ll admit that it’s not really the best song out of all the ones in the film, but I ended up getting some enjoyment out of it. It was a pretty ridiculous moment that got some laughs out of me and is one of the parts of the movie that sticks out the most for me.
Turning My Life Around
Moviefan12: The fun of this number comes from how Anna and John are so blissfully unaware of the carnage happening around them. It’s a great juxtaposition between this upbeat number and the horror that is about to hit our characters like a semi-truck tumbling down the highway.
The Creature: Seeing all the chaos unfold around them as they sing their way back to school is a pretty funny sight which brings in some humor to the film. It’s a bit reminiscent of Shaun getting food while hungover with zombies walking about in Shaun of the Dead.
Moviefan12: Ah, the anthem of 2020. We can’t be with the ones that we love and instead have to reach out to them via screens and that is kinda what this song is touching upon. Our characters are separated from their loved ones and they have no idea if they are okay or not. This number speaks to the larger point of not being able to know if the ones you care about are okay.
The Creature: Yeah, it reflects this year pretty well. As you mentioned, we’re all separated from the people most important to us and have no idea if they’re okay or not. It fits in with our zombie story fairly well given we live in the digital era.
Solider at War
Moviefan12: As my colleague pointed out, Nick and his number give off a Gaston vibe. However, there is a point to that as everything Nick is doing is over-the-top and for show. He thinks that he has put on this bravado and Anna actually calls him out on it and asks him if he’d ever done anything that wasn’t for him. I don’t want to give it away but when you find out the answer, it’s heartbreaking and puts his character in a new light.
The Creature: It’s definitely a song to show off how great he is in front of Anna and her friends as he kills some zombies. While this does seem ego-boasting, it does soon provide a change of perspective for him soon after.
Nothing’s Gonna Stop Me Now
Moviefan12: Savage gets two great villain numbers showing how truly unhinged he is. This one kicks it off and it is just so deliciously twisted in how much it makes you hate this man. This goes back to the idea of if someone thinks they have things under control when zombies break loose, they really don’t.
The Creature: He definitely was having a lot of fun during this number. Throughout the film, it becomes a bit obvious he starts to lose his sanity and he’s finally lost it by this point and lets the zombies chase the rest of the cast around the school while singing. It’s definitely one of the more fun songs out of the bunch.
Give Them A Show
Moviefan12: Hero/Villian duets are so fun and we need more of them. This is the moment that the movie has been building towards as Anna slays down zombies with her candy cane that is now bloodied. And we see that Savage has lost it as he released the zombies inside the school. He thinks his plan will work and wants to obliterate the earth. Which not exactly cool, man. Still, this number is so rousing and you can’t help but love it.
The Creature: I’ll admit this is one of the very few Hero/Villain duets I’ve heard in any musical and I do think there should be more of them in musicals. Anna and Savage have a stand-off in the gym as he has her father held hostage in a room full of zombies and she has to fight through them and Savage to save them. It’s quite the sight to see in the film.
I Will Beleive
Moviefan12: This song ties into what I’ve been mentioning throughout, the idea of hope. Our characters have been put through the wringer and may have lost so much of what they cared about, they still have hope. Yeah, this is a bit of a sad song but at the same time, Anna acknowledges that so long as she still has hope, she can march on.
The Creature: Being full of hope in the face of despair…is this connected to Danganronpa by chance?
Anyway, it is definitely a song about remaining positive in spite of the worst happening to them throughout the film.
What A Time To Be Alive
Moviefan12: We end with something of a jokey song over the credits. It’s cute and the tongue is clearly planted in its cheek. Still, a bit jarring to jump from the last song of despair to this jokey number. It’s not bad but not one I’d see myself coming back to.
The Creature:…there was a song in the credits?
*goes back to watch them*
So the song is definitely jarring given the last song we just had in the film, though it is a bit on the nose with the humor in the film.
Our Final Thoughts
Moviefan12: This movie has only been out for three years globally and two stateside but I do truly believe that this movie could garner a cult following a la Rocky Horror. It’s that good if in twenty-thirty years, there are Midnight Screenings of Anna and the Apocalypse, I wouldn’t be surprised. People love alternative Christmas movies. How often do people say Die Hard is their favorite Christmas movie? All the time and well, this is something similar to that except I think it uses the themes of the holiday a bit more than the Bruce Willis classic.
The Creature: It was a pretty unique film given it’s a Christmas musical set in the middle of the zombie uprising that also went down the comedic path instead of aiming for a serious note like most zombies material does. It gets serious when it needs to without it feeling jarring and it faired over as being pretty entertaining. I’m not sure it’ll go the midnight screening and cult following route, but I could see it hitting the stage eventually.
Moviefan12: I’d once again like to thank The Creature for joining me.