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‘Anna and the Apocalypse’ Cast and Crew Discuss Creating a Christmas Horror-Musical

Teletubbies – Christmas in the Snow probably isn’t something you thought you’d read about for a movie about a zombie apocalypse. I didn’t think I’d be writing about it, either. But when Cut Print Film sat down with the cast and crew of the Christmas horror-musical-comedy Anna and the Apocalypse, that was just one of the crazy topics of discussion.

Co-star Christopher Leveaux said it’s his favorite Christmas movie, a real head turner compared to more classic answers like choreographer and co-star Sarah Swire’s favorite, A Christmas Story. The star of the film, Ella Hunt, was of similar mind, shocked to learn I haven’t seen her Christmas favorite, The Long Kiss Goodnight starring what she called “peak” Geena Davis.

But whatever the crew’s favorite holiday classics, one thing is clear, this genre blender is a crowd pleaser of the highest order and should be on everyone’s “non-Christmas” Christmas movies like director John McPhail’s favorite, Die Hard. Their non-traditional look at Christmas helps truly set the project apart with envious inventiveness, riffing on other zombie favorites.

“There’s a lot of nods to Evil Dead, Shaun of the Dead,” McPhail said. “They’re all speckled throughout the film. I love my quick cuts and whip pans and things of that sort.”

It’s the perfect film for those that wish Christmas was every day and for those that think you should only put on Mariah Carey the week before December 25. You can watch it for Halloween just as soon as you would for the year’s first snow.

Or you could just watch it no matter what the calendar reads. Watch for the zombie apocalypse, leave with the soundtrack stuck in your head.

Though Anna is the composer duo’s first film credit, Tommy Reilly and Roddy Hart more than succeeded with the film’s large range of tracks. While their ability to form songs that remind you of Christmas without directly lifting from classic tracks is the driving force, the cast plays just as vital a role with infectious enthusiasm.

McPhail tossed his support for a penguin rap while Hunt and her cast mates debated over two show-stopping performances, “It’s that Time of Year” and “Turn My Life Around.” Hunt described the former as “sass on legs,” sung by another character she originally wanted to play just to sing that song full of innuendo in front of uncomfortable parents.

“Turn My Life Around,” is a real turning point in the film where it goes from giddy Christmas high school drama to apocalyptic fever dream. In Hunt’s words, it’s “utter silliness” and was the most enjoyable day on set as she and co-star Malcolm Cumming dance through the street, blissfully unaware of the apocalypse unfolding behind them.

“I mean, as actors, it’s great fun to do the full escapism,” Hunt said. “That’s one where I was reading the notes on the dancing and thought, ‘What am I going to do?’ So I was basically just, ‘You know what, it’s your chance to be as goofy as you want to be.’”

McPhail said he was immediately impressed with Hunt during the audition process. It wasn’t just a willingness to let loose that made her the right choice to play Anna. He said there was a moment during the audition she questioned one of his directions, that signaled she was Anna.

“Ooooh, you’re thinkin,” McPhail said about that encounter. “You’re thinkin about this character.”

Of course, it ended up in Hunt’s lap, a role that’d pit her against Game of Thrones actor Paul Kaye as the film’s antagonist, Savage, a scrooge of a headmaster. Being able to go toe-to-toe with Thoros of Myr is an accomplishment in itself helped by Kaye’s “lovely” on-set presence before churning out his “terribly” terrific performance everyone was sold on during the cast’s first table read, Cumming recalled.

Anna and the Apocalypse is still seeking U.S. distribution but should be announced anytime after receiving a wild reaction from the Fantastic Fest crowd.

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Junior journalism and film student at Baylor University. Formerly rambled at Rope of Silicon, currently a part-time sports wordsmith and full-time cinephile. I sometimes say funny things. ...This was not one of those times