Signal Horizon

See Beyond

An Interview With Director John McPhail Director of Anna and the Apocalypse

Christmas horror is its own sub-genre. Last year I stumbled into the Alamo Drafthouse here in Kansas City and the zombie musical Anna and the Apocalypse stumbled right into my heart. Recently I got the opportunity to interview Director John McPhail about this heart warming, brain eating, Christmas classic while he promoted the newest Blu release from Second Sight Films. Here are some of the highlights. Check out the full interview at the bottom.

SH: What drew you to the AatA script?

JM: I knew I wanted to make a film that was an homage to old school horror movies…. I also knew I wanted the gore of those movies…. If you watch AatA you will see we went with a lot of gore mostly to highlight the fun that was to be had…

SH: The structure of the film is really interesting. Tonally it shifts hard at the end walk us through those tonal changes?

JM: That was our intent all along. We took the typical three act structure and broke it into essentially three different genres. The first act feels a lot like a zany teen comedy. There is a lot of humor, a lot of teenage angst…. It was important to let them be kids. The second is really where the horror movie starts up. There is a lot of gore. That’s when we see the zombies for the first time. Its a thank you to horror fans…That zombie we meet in the cemetery is by far my favorite and really marks the shift in the film. The final act is much darker and much more like a regular drama. We need to be worried we will lose these kids… Its pretty clear then that the song “Hollywood Ending” is more foreshadowing then just fun musical number”.

SH: Speaking of the end, was it always the intent to have Anna and Nick to end up together?

JM: Its funny you say that because I hear a few people that they got together. There is nothing in the script or in the movie that they end up together. I think that at the end of the movie Anna is alone and some of that resolution at the end is that she is alone and she is okay with being alone. She doesn’t need him or anybody. She don’t need no man. {Speaking on Nick}Ben Wiggins is great. Nick is supposed to be this greasy, macho jock type that I think all of us know. We all know what a bully was and is…Bullies are a product of their environment….He was my original Nick from the get go…

SH: What are some of your favorite horror movies?

JM: I am obviously a massive John Carpenter fan so there are all his films. Specifically I used the Escape From New York theme during one of the scenes….So like this movie is a little like Carpenter meets Christmas. There are a lot of references to other horror movies in AatA it was fun to put all of them in and to watch people discover them as well. We are not the first zombie musical because Takashi Miike’s work The Happiness of the Katakuris which we have a poster for in our movie.

SH: We always like to highlight teachers who have had an impact on peoples lives. Is there a standout teacher in your own life you want to mention?

JM: Oh that’s great. It is also a super easy question…The retiring principal/head master in the movie is actually my old high school english teacher. So when I asked him to be in the film he was totally game for it. He came on all of our festival tours and was around for the cast parties….He was a regular part of everything we did and it was just really fun to include him in things and to watch him take part.

For a full recap and review of the double disk set check out our review. Otherwise listen to the full interview below.