Warning: this article includes plot spoilers for the film Anna and the Apocalypse.
Among the many great cinematic achievements released last year was Anna and the Apocalypse, a slightly overlooked Scottish charmer featuring zombies, Christmas, and more than a few musical numbers. With the film now available for digital sales in America, we thought it was a perfect time to revisit the songs from the film and rank them.
10. "Human Voice"
A somber examination of our cultural dependence on technology and how it keeps us from truly connecting. This might be the song that falls the flattest in the film for me, given that it comes immediately after that technology is the thing that actually helped our heroes to connect, and how little access they have to the grid considering most of it is down. The song's thesis feels like it wants the movie to be more of a social commentary than it is, plus it feels a little out of place with the pacing, a speed bump at a moment when the film is starting to gain momentum.
9. "Nothing’s Gonna Stop Me Now"
Villain songs are usually some of the best numbers in a musical, and I really wish that had been the case here. But coming so soon after “Soldier At War” which is almost a villain song itself, and given that the audience has been led to believe Assistant Headmaster Savage has just killed off our leads’ loved ones, it’s hard to get into it. The saving grace of it is that Paul Kaye is having so, so much fun jumping around and hamming it up throughout.
8. "The Fish Wrap"
It’s a pair of Scottish teenagers in penguin suits doing fish puns. What else do you want?
7. "It’s That Time Of Year"
This is a Christmas movie so we do need at least one Christmas song, which we get with this perfect send-up of “Santa Baby” that also includes a rare bit of male objectification. It is only slightly less uncomfortable for the film audience than it is for the audience at the performance in the movie itself as the double entendres begin in earnest. There's a definite moment of "Wait, did she just say...?"
6. "I Will Believe"
This was always going to be an extremely difficult number to land. Given the decision to not give the movie a huge happy ending, it was impossible to give it a large triumphant number, so what we’re left with his a song about trying so hard to carry on despite the hopelessness and loss. Despite the somewhat impossibility of the song, Anna and Nick singing about hanging on until their last breath while their eyes tell us they’ve lost hope is pretty amazing.
5. "Give Them A Show"
The confrontation number between Anna and Savage, this is one of the most fun songs in the film to watch, even if it does feel a little derivative of "Life's a Show," the final confrontation number from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode. Despite that, it’s a song being sung while our lead is bashing zombies heads in with a giant, bloody candy cane, which is the exact thing you want to see when a movie is promoted as a zombie musical set at Christmas. Plus bonus points for having Anna take a second to tie her hair back before going into battle.
4. "Hollywood Ending"
With the premise of the movie being High School Musical but with zombies, a song like “Hollywood Ending” that encapsulates teen angst over heartbreak had to be part of it. Doubling as the refrain at the end of the film when the world has gone to hell, the “No such thing as a Hollywood Ending” motif is an easy double meaning for the tune. While it leans a little more heavy on Anna’s romantic life than the story needs, it’s an impressive looking big cast choreography number for such a low budget film shot in such a small space over such a short period of time.
3. "Break Away"
The first musical number of the film, this "I Want" song for the characters establishes the tone of the movie as a musical with zombies versus a musical about zombies and also swiftly helps us get to know our leads and understand who they are as fleshed out people. These are people with lives and struggles that exist long before the undead do.
2. "Soldier At War"
Nick is introduced as a completely unlikable character at the start of the film (and in this scene), and this song has to do a lot of heavy lifting: it needs to be a fun “let’s go kill some zombies” song, but it also has to get us to feel willing to root for a character whose every previous line of dialogue has demanded that we do the opposite, even though he's still being just as cocky and arrogant in the song. And somehow it manages to pull it off, it’s the most fun song in the entire movie.
1. "Turning My Life Around"
My favorite number in the movie, it’s hard to be 100% certain that the joy of this song isn’t mostly the humor in the dramatic irony of Anna and John’s obliviousness to the zombie apocalypse happening all around them while the audience is very aware. Still, the song is really fun and one of the few numbers in the film that actually gets the toes tapping.
Images: Orion Pictures, songs: Interscope Records