I wasn’t sure I wanted to include this one, as it’s not much of a horror movie, because the musical numbers take the edge off the horror scenes. Still, it is Christmas time (well, it was when I started writing this) and this is a Christmas movie, so why not?
As usual, spoilers. Spoilers. Spoilers.
Also, I’m not quite sure which version I’ve seen. There’s three versions of the movie: 93 minute US version, 98 minute international version and 108 minute extended version. I know the version I’ve seen is not the last one. The version is from the UK, but it’s 93 minutes. Since the figures I have are from IMDb, which lists US runtimes, the formatting differences might mean that this is the UK version (runtimes are about 6% shorter in Europe as far as I can tell, which I assume is based on framerates). I wouldn’t know what the difference is in any event.
Anna lives with her father in a small town in Scotland. She wants to travel after graduating high school (or similar, I’m not quite sure about Scottish educational system), but hasn’t told her father. Her closest friend, John, discloses her plans to her father accidentally, which kicks off the tension of the movie… and there’s zombies.
The zombies are there largely as a gimmick. Interest in a movie about a teenager drama is a much harder sell than a zombie movie, if you don’t have a star to carry it. Of course, it changes other things as well. Horror fans don’t expect the same production values as those who would watch dramas. You have some leeway here. Not that the actors are bad or anything. They had some real long-term working actors in there as well. Still, it is a small production, as horror movies tend to be.
“What about the music?”, you might ask. Well, it’s a small budget musical and the music is fine. It’s what you would expect from a musical. Actually, some of the songs are quite enjoyable. While the movie might be somewhat hard to find (you can buy it on Amazon Prime), but the soundtrack is readily available on streaming services (like on Spotify). The music does what it’s meant to: It explains character and pushes the plot forward.
But you’ll know if you belong to that small cross-section of audiences that would be willing to see a horror movie and a musical. Both are genres often avoided by many, so we are probably few and far between. It’s also probable that these genres are somewhat mutually exclusive in their audiences, which would mean even less potential, which is a pity, because despite it’s shortcomings, it’s a very enjoyable movie, even if it is more of a guilty pleasure than anything else. And I am guilty of seeing it probably half a dozen times or so. It is kind of stupid, but in a fun way. After all, it is in an intersection of two genres, which both readily allow a little bit of stupidity. Still, while thinking about this movie, I keep coming back to the idea of the audience. Who is this for, really?
The actual reason I wanted to talk about the movie is that it clearly wants to avoid certain tropes. Anna is not a virgin. While in the real world this would be quite normal for a girl her age, in movies these characters always seem to be so pure and innocent. While movies like Scream have already subverted this trope by Sidney having sex with Billy in order to “follow the rules”, in this movie this has happened in Anna’s past.
And it’s not a big deal. Anna herself says so. She is more disappointed by the fact that the guy’s behavior towards her had changed after the fact. She wasn’t interested in having a relationship or anything, but she did seem to enjoy the intimacy. Not the physical intimacy (she doesn’t talk about that), but the way she was able to share her thougths with this guy.
Now, like in real life, these interpersonal relationships are complicated. You have to put up with certain people, because they get along with other people you want to spend time with. John, Anna’s closest friend, who is very infatuated with her, hates this guy. He is crude and leads a gang of what is basically the school bullies. Which, of course, means that they end up working together. Or more like Anna and her friends end up being protected by this gang. This is part of the beauty of this movie: All these things come out as the zombie apocalypse basically forces certain people together and, in some cases, they know that as someone is dying or becoming a zombie, this is the last opportunity they have to talk about certain things.
On the other hand, some of the discussions make the characters feel a bit obsessed with both themselves and celebrities. The world is ending, but they are still concerned with their plans for their futures from before… and Justin Bieber. (I guess writers all over the world still haven’t figured out that Fuck, Marry, Kill is actually about pressuring your peers into divulging infatuations within your social circles.) In some cases the moviemakers are making fun of our obsession with fame, but that doesn’t quite explain the other half of this problem.
There’s also some issues with bullying here, but I really don’t want to go into that. I was never personally bullied (some people tried, as a pudgy nerd with glasses seems like an easy target, but that backfired on them in several ways) and partly for that reason I don’t really want to go into that when talking about a fun comedy horror film.