John McPhail never really envisioned himself as a horror director, given his most successful feature prior to the barnstorming Anna and the Apocalypse was micro-budget rom-com Where Do We Go From Here. After catching it at the Glasgow Film Festival, the producers behind Anna tapped McPhail as the ideal choice for a romantic, coming of age movie…with zombies.
The flick is adapted from Ryan McHenry’s short musical, which boasts the no-nonsense title Zombie Musical. McPhail sadly didn’t get to meet McHenry prior to his passing away, but it’s clear he’d be pleased with the full-length feature, which stormed the boards everywhere from Sitges to Frightfest to its hometown screening in Edinburgh, where McPhail himself hails from.
The enthusiastic reception to Anna shouldn’t shock the Scottish filmmaker, given its irresistible mix of sweet camaraderie in tough times, father-daughter squabbling, teenage banter, and gory zombie madness interspersed with catchy songs and plenty of angst from the adults and kids alike. It’s pretty impossible to hate. Or, at least, I’d be very suspicious of anyone who dislikes it. See our review of the film right here.
The Frightfest synopsis promises a delicious mixture of genres:
Shaun of the Dead gets Footlooose with High School Musical in a pure gore delight with a toe-tapping beat. Anna is looking forward to the end of high school. But while her widowed father dreams of university, she has other plans – jet-setting around the world to experience life before settling down. Suddenly a zombie apocalypse threatens her sleepy Scottish town, forcing Anna and friends to struggle, slash and sing their way to survival, facing the living dead in a desperate race to reach their loved ones. A holiday horror show stopper with a mental, maniacal and magical musical edge.
Directed by John McPhail, and co-written by Alan McDonald and Ryan Henry, the movie stars Ella Hunt, Mark Benton, Malcolm Cumming, Sarah Swire, and Marli Siu. It’s equal parts funny, gory, inspiring, and surprisingly emotional.
Wicked Horror caught up with McPhail at Frightfest 2018 to talk splicing genres, the zombie apocalypse, his personal connection to the material, and plenty more besides.
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Interview conducted by: Joey Keogh
Camera: Richard Waters
Editing: Richard Waters