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Anna and the Apocalypse
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Anna and the Apocalypse is a Christmas-themed zombie musical that's almost certainly the first of its kind. Not surprisingly, it has graphic (but comical) zombie violence, including lots of blood and gore, eating/spilling of entrails, characters dying and becoming zombies, zombies being bashed with blunt objects and weapons, etc. Language is also strong, with uses of "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "p---y," and more. Teens kiss passionately (and sloppily), and teen sex is briefly but openly discussed. One character is in a same-sex relationship, but her girlfriend is never seen. There's also some eyebrow-raising sexual innuendo in certain scenes, most notably in a particular song. Consumerism and substance use aren't issues. The movie is uneven but ultimately creative and energetic, with touching emotional connections; teens looking for nonstandard holiday fare should enjoy it.
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What's the story?
In ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE, several high schoolers deal with their day-to-day problems. Anna (Ella Hunt) wants to travel to Australia after graduation, but her widowed dad (Mark Benton) is against the idea. Anna's best friend, John (Malcolm Cumming), is secretly in love with her, and her ex-boyfriend Nick (Ben Wiggins) is an obnoxious bully. Another friend, Steph (Sarah Swire), is a sophisticated lesbian who's been left on her own just before Christmas by both her parents and her girlfriend. At least cabaret-style singer Lisa (Marli Siu) and her film geek boyfriend, Chris (Christopher Leveaux), seem to be happy. But everything changes when the zombies come. Four of the friends must try to get back to the high school across town, where their loved ones have been holed up since the big Christmas show. But another problem lies in the sadistic headmaster (Paul Kaye), who doesn't mind if a few students' brains wind up as zombie food.
Is it any good?
Both its tone and its songs get a little melancholy as the movie goes along, but this frequently exuberant Christmas-zombie-musical is wonderfully creative, with a touching emotional center. Dreamed up by a handful of fresh-faced newcomers, Anna and the Apocalypse features several brand-new original tunes, the most delightful of which are doled out in the first half hour, although the cast's singing and dancing generally carry the later, sadder, darker ones through. (Only a vicious shriek-fest, sung by Kaye's villain, stops things dead for a time.) And while the zombie violence is mostly old hat, there are a few clever new slayings, especially those taking place in a bowling alley and one involving a seesaw.
Of the movie's three main thematic elements, Christmas is less present than the songs or the zombies (or at least less so than in something like The Nightmare Before Christmas). But holiday imagery is used in twisted, subversive ways, such as Anna's choice of a candy cane (with a sharp end point) as a weapon, a Christmas tree on fire, and a big prop star in the stage performance. An ugly holiday sweater is also a highlight. Aside from any gimmicks or genre-switching, though, what really comes through in Anna and the Apocalypse is a sense that the characters have genuine troubles, that they genuinely care for one another, and that death actually means something. Viewers may have expected to laugh and tap their toes, but they may be surprised at having been moved, too.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Anna and the Apocalypse's violence. How gory is it? Did it make you laugh or cringe? Why? How did the filmmakers achieve this? Can gore be funny?
Is the movie scary? Are zombies scary? Why or why not?
How is Steph portrayed? Is she a positive representation of the LGBTQ community?
How does the movie deal with the bully character? How is his story resolved?
What is the father-daughter relationship like between Anna and her dad? Do they communicate? Do they respect one another? How does it compare to your own real-life relationships?
- In theaters: November 30, 2018
- Cast: Ella Hunt, Malcolm Cumming, Sarah Swire
- Director: John McPhail
- Studio: Orion Pictures
- Genre: Musical
- Topics: High School, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires, Music and Sing-Along
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: zombie violence and gore, language, and some sexual material
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.