Anna and the Apocalypse [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - Germany - Splendid Film
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (7th July 2019).
The Film

"Anna and the Apocalypse" (2017)

It's Christmastime and a high school in Little Haven, Scotland is putting on a Christmas show for the community before the school break. Anna (played by Ella Hunt) is not particularly looking forward to the festivities and is focused on after the school year when she is planning to travel to Australia for the summer. Her father Tony (played by Mark Benton) who works at the school disapproves of her decision as he is expecting her to go straight to university. But unfortunately during the festive time, an outbreak occurs and the town becomes infested with zombies, so Anna along with her friends must somehow run, fight, and survive the impending apocalypse, while singing in dancing in a musical fashion.

Within the last twenty years the number of zombie movies released have increased exponentially. While rules of the zombie genre have been well established, a few have taken the opportunity to expand the genre to go beyond the borders of horror. "Shaun of the Dead", "Paranorman", "The Walking Dead", and others have crossed over by adding somethingto the genre, whether it is comedic, metaphysical, or adding heart, but they still kept to the rules with how zombies act and being creative with on screen kills. One particular genre crossover that has not quite caught on is the zombie musical. Though there have been a few in the past with the little seen indie film "Z: A Zombie Musical" (2007) or the Indian film "Donga" (1985) which had the infamous "Thriller" ripoff scene, there hasn't been one that pushed to a higher limit in execution and quality in both the musical aspect and the gore with a wide appeal. "Anna and the Apocalypse" is a small Scottish film that feels much bigger and richer than it should, with its great performances by the actors as well as a very well put together score, featuring great singing and choreography to match.

In 2011, Ryan McHenry who was known for his Vine memes "Ryan Gosling Won't Eat His Cereal" directed the short film "Zombie Musical" which went on to win a BAFTA. He discussed with producer Naysun Alae-Carew about adapting it into a feature lengthy production, but unfortunately, McHenry would not live to see the completion, due to his death from bone cancer at the age of 27 in 2015. Production commenced in 2017 with John McPhail directing and most importantly, Roddy Hart and Tommy Reilly who composed the music for the production. A very modern pop music oriented score with careful lyrics to compliment the storyline, the songs such as "Hollywood Ending" and "Break Away" are powerful, catchy, and extremely fun, while songs like "Christmas Means Nothing Without You" will give quite a few laughs due to its innuendo. With any musical, if the score doesn't work, the story structure fails. If the musical segments do not easily flow with the dramatic segments, the story also fails. Thankfully "Anna and the Apocalypse" is able to cleanly bridge the gaps together and have it thoroughly enjoyable. The songs can be listened to separately and they still work just as well.

As for the performers Ella Hunt played Anna very well as the smart realist who also dreams of something much more. Her relationship with her single father Tony is close but slightly strained due to time, but it's clear that they have an important family connection throughout. Her relationship with John (played by Malcolm Cumming) on the other hand is a friend-zone one, where she is oblivious to the fact that John is in love with her. Lisa (played by Marli Siu) is Anna's perky and upbeat best friend who is inseparable from her love Chris (played by Christopher Leveaux). Steph (played by Sarah Swire) is a bit of an outsider, who has a bit of an awkward dark personality and is unfortunately alone during the Christmas season with her parents vacationing in Mexico and her girlfriend also being away. The two characters that audiences will love to hate are the classmate bully leader Nick (played by Ben Wiggins) and the viciously strict schoolmaster Mr. Savage (played by Paul Kaye) who are constant antagonists throughout. Each character has their own personality and uniqueness about them, and yes it is unfortunate to see when each gets one offed by the zombie outbreak. Taking place in a high school environment it is easy to place the film in the category of "High School Musical" or "Glee", but with gallons more blood than either of those shows combined, and appealing to both its core audiences of teen drama fans and the zombie horror fans.

The musical is by no means a perfectly made film, as there are questionable actions by some of the characters, the timing of the musical segments not being as balanced as it could be, and how some of the character relationships not being fully defined. But overall, "Anna and the Apocalypse" is an absolute blast of fun, with a great amount of singing, dancing, laughing, and gore to please many. The film opened on September 22, 2017 in Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas to very positive reviews. It took a while for the film to play in its home country, when it played on June 29, 2018 at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, then at other various festivals around the world. It opened theatrically in the UK, US, and Australia in November 2018 to fairly positive reviews, but didn't quite find an audience in cinemas, grossing a very small $756,473 worldwide being in limited release everywhere. While in the UK the film was released on DVD in the UK by Vertigo Releasing and in Australia by 20th Century Fox, a Blu-ray edition was not released in those territories. Thankfully, Splendid Film from Germany was brave enough to give it a go on Blu-ray (as well as a DVD edition), where at this time is the only label worldwide to release the film on the HD format.

Note this is a region B Blu-ray

Video

Splendid Film presents the film in the theatrical 2.39:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. Shot digitally on the Arri Alexa SXT, the image looks as crisp as can be with little if any problems. The image is very clean with great color reproduction on the Christmas colors all around as well as the white snow and bright red blood, and skin tones are natural looking. Overall a great looking transfer all around. The only complaint would have to be that at times when there are on screen captions such as banners on a computer screen, burned-in German captions are on the screen at the top. This is part of the image and cannot be removed.

The runtime is 97:43

Audio

English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
German DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

There are two lossless 5.1 tracks available, in the original English language and a dubbed German track. Being a musical it is obvious the musical segments fully utilize the 5.1 soundscape as it should. Dialogue is always centered and sounds very well balanced with the music and effects track, and when the singing comes in, the surround system will get a very good workout. In the German track, the dialogue is in German but the musical segments are in English with subtitles for those segments.

There are optional Dutch, German subtitles in a white font for the main feature, along with the mentioned German subtitle track for the songs only (for the German dub track), as well as the mentioned burned-in German captions.

Extras

When the disc is started, a menu to choose "German" or "Dutch" appears. Depending on the selection, the trailers and menu languages differ.

"Hollywood Ending" cast and crew version music video (4:18)
A montage of the cast and crew lip sync to the catchiest song on the soundtrack in between takes. The optional subtitles do not caption the lyrics but only the ending segment with composers.
in 1080p in AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English DTS 2.0 with optional German subtitles

Gag Reel (2:49)
Various flubs and mistakes by the cast that are color corrected and framed in the theatrical ratio.
in 1080p in AVC MPEG-4, in 2.35:1, in English DTS 2.0 with optional German subtitles

"Behind the Scenes" featurette (25:50)
In this making-of featurette, the filmmakers talk about the genesis of the film by adapting "Zombie Musical" by Ryan McHenry and his loss to cancer, input from the various cast and crew about the characters, the music, along with set tours and footage from the shoot.
in 1080p in AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1 / 2.35:1, in English DTS 2.0 with optional German subtitles

Outtakes (11:07)
More mistakes, extended adlibs, and more are here as an extension of the gag reel, with some scenes being repeated here. These have not been color corrected and are presented open matte as it was filmed, so colors can look a bit dull and microphones can sometimes be seen from overhead in shots.
in 1080p in AVC MPEG-4, in 2.35:1, in English DTS 2.0 with optional German subtitles

"Some Things Will Never Change" deleted song with original storyboards (3:05)
A scene storyboarded and shot featuring Tony singing is presented along with the original storyboards on the left and the shot scene on the right.
in 1080p in AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English DTS 2.0 with optional German subtitles

The Original Opening Scene (2:04)
Originally there was a town square musical segment with a drunken Santa and a large cast of singers and extras, but had to be completely cut since the shoot didn't go as planned due to bad weather. The scene was shot but the heavy wind and sleet made it impossible to complete. This features the scenes shot along with behind the scenes footage cut together. There is running audio commentary by McPhail which cannot be turned off, so unfortunately the song itself can only be heard underneath rather than in full.
in 1080p in AVC MPEG-4, in 2.35:1, in English DTS 2.0 with optional German subtitles

Deleted Scenes (2:31)
A short scene between Anna and Steph at the bowling alley is presented here.
in 1080p in AVC MPEG-4, in 2.35:1, in English DTS 2.0 with optional German subtitles

Start-up Trailers (Dutch)
- "The Villainess" (0:53)
- "Operation Chromite" (1:48)

After selecting "Dutch", two start-up trailers play which are skippable, both are in the original languages respectively with subtitles.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, with optional Dutch subtitles

Start-up Trailers (German)
- "Hereditary" (2:11)
- "Every Day" (2:22)

After selecting "German", two start-up trailers play which are skippable, both are dubbed in German.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4

Bonus Trailers (Dutch)
- "He's Out There" (2:26)
- "Down Range" (1:37)
- "Train to Busan" (1:40)
- "The Villainess" (0:53)
- "Operation Chromite" (1:48)
- "Hereditary" (2:11)
- "Bleeding Steel" (1:57)
- "Seoul Station" (1:28)

In the Dutch menu, all bonus trailers are in their original languages with optional Dutch subtitles.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4

Bonus Trailers (German)
- "He's Out There" (2:26)
- "Down Range" (1:37)
- "Train to Busan" (1:40)
- "Every Day" (2:22)
- "Operation Chromite" (1:48)
- "Hereditary" (2:11)
- "Bleeding Steel" (1:57)
- "Seoul Station" (1:28)

In the German menu, all bonus trailers are dubbed in German.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4

Packaging

The inlay is reversible, with the opposite side removing the German FSK logo.

Overall

"Anna and the Apocalypse" is a wonderful little zombie musical hybrid film that has an excellent score and a great amount of gore to satisfy the musical audience and the horror crowds to equal effect. It's hilarious as it is bloody and upbeat, with a great cast as well. The Splendid Film Blu-ray has a good selection of extras and a great presentation, making this highly recommended.

The Film: B+ Video: A Audio: A Extras: B- Overall: B+

 


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