Neglect. Rape. Christmas Birth. A Perfect Storm for EVIL to be Born! “The Curse of the Werewolf” reviewed! (Scream Factory / Collector’s Edition Blu-ray)


Set amongst the simple, yet sometimes divisively barbaric, culture of Eighteenth Century Spain, a beggar stumbles into the castle of a cruel king whose throwing a lavish wedding reception with his lords. The King’s young bride takes pity on the beggar as his force to be the occasion’s jester to obtain scraps of food and wine, but when the King retires with his new wife, he orders the beggar to be imprisoned. Forgotten to the point of insanity with his only visitor a lovely mute jailkeeper’s maid, the haggard and disheveled beggar goes mad with ravenous intentions and when the maid is punished for disobeying the now elderly, but still cruel, King, she is locked away with the beggar who rapes her. When the maid is released next morning, she kills the King and escapes into the woods to live like an animal until she’s barely found alive by a nobleman named Don Alfredo. Nursed back to health by Don Alfredo’s servant, Teresa, and discovering that the maid is pregnant, Don Alfredo and Teresa tend to the maid until the eventual birth on Christmas Day, an unholy time to give birth to a child according to superstition. The maid dies shortly after giving birth and the child, named Leon, is then raised by Don Alfredo and Teresa as their own, but carries with him a terrible curse stemmed from the maltreatment of his parents and being born on Christmas Day that transforms him into a bloodthirsty werewolf when the moon is full. When a priest advised that only love will restrain the beast from emerging, young Leon must be continuously shown affection, but when a young man, Leon leaves home to live his life, but the beast within him returns to ravage the village’s population.

Let’s travel back in time to the groovy year of 1961 when the renowned Hammer Horror direct, Terence Fisher (“Horror of Dracula”), was accelerating to the height of his career into what would be the United Kingdom’s very own colossally cult production studio, Hammer Horror, that economically constructed violent storied horror concepts splayed with a brilliant crimson blood inside an orgasmic gothic melodrama circulating around most of the classic monsters like Dracula, The Mummy, and Frankenstein, but, in this review of a new collector’s edition of Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release, Fisher wrestled with the hound from Hell, the werewolf, in “The Curse of the Werewolf” that was penned by Anthony Hinds, under the pseudonym of John Elder, as his sophomore credit behind “The Brides of Dracula.” English studio locations were transformed, not under the light of a full moon, to fabricate a mock village of Eighteenth Century Spain with the immaculate details to the sets and costumes, surely recycled from previous Hammer films, to offset the inherent English accents on a broken Spanglish vernacular. Fisher and Hinds upend common werewolf narratives, spinning a wildly tangent rendition of Guy Endore’s already highly taboo tricked out horror novel, “The Werewolf of Paris,” and drape it heavily with Gothicism.

Playing the shapeshifter werewolf is Oliver Reed who at the time was relatively unknown, playing a few bit parts such Plaid Shirt (“Wild for Kicks”) or my personal favorite, Man With Bucket on Head (“No Love for Johnnie.”) Yet, Reed exuded animalistic qualities, such as his dark features and somber eyes, that made him ideal for the role by appearances alone. The thespian in him didn’t quite fit what I believe Fisher was trying to flush out for his beast as Reed held back with a stoic reserve rather than a man desperate for salvation or death, but no one could deny that Reed wore the werewolf makeup like no other, a fine tuned testament of makeup artist Roy Ashton’s creativity that intensified an already beastly framed actor. “The Kiss of the Vampire’s” Clifford Evans took the role of being the wealthy socialite and surrogate father, Don Alfredo, who took the responsibility of raising a cursed child as his own with much suppression love as he could muster to stave the beast from returning. The legendary actor who starred in countless crime-dramas step outside his niche and into horror, even if at the time horror was considered a schlocky exercise of distaste content for a cheap thrill. As Don Alfredo, Evans wages his worth solely on the prospect of being a gentled hearted father-figure doing the right thing even if it’s detrimental to himself and the veteran actor triumphs taking an aloof man with little responsibility to his village, let alone his home, and turning him into taking the matter of his adopted son’s affliction into his own hands when he fails to cobble another solution together. “The Curse of the Werewolf” holds many other fine support performances from “Circus of Horror’s” Yvonne Romain as the mute jailkeeper’s maid, Catherine Feller, Richard Wordsworth, Warren Mitchell, Anne Blake, and John Gabriel.

“The Curse of the Werewolf” is driven not by the snarling teeth action or the transformative body horror one expects of Lycanthropy features. Instead, Hammer’s film rides a story high without being arbitrary with nonsensical waning on the centerpiece of the story, the curse, coursing the path that led to Leon’s fate that was no fault of his own. Leon’s throat-ripping moonlight rendezvous was bred from cruelty and circumstance of severe class division that reaps the life from those in the same blue collar social class as Leon, leaving the higher, wealthy class virtually unscathed by the curse’s wrath in a cruel ironic twist of events. With the story leading the charge, special effects and makeup take a backseat without only some immature fangs and shadowy lurking to sate the need for creature presence. When Roy Ashton’s vision of the half-man half-beast does make a full presentation of Oliver Reed in the full hairy beast getup, complete with a furrowed brow, elongated lower canines, and large wolf ears that were connected with bristly, greyish brown hair down the side of his lower jaw, the werewolf is worth the wait for some of the best practical werewolf makeup from the mid-20th century and surely was the inspiration for future werewolf films, such as “Wolf” with Jack Nicholson. The novelty of “The Curse of the Werewolf” still remains ripe despite being nearly half a century young, giving the beast a meaningful, if not also pitiful, existence to empathize being damned on two fronts: a wretched, cursed soul and being the target of a village mob.

Can love soothe a killer heart? Find out in Scream Factory’s collector edition Blu-ray of “The Curse of the Werewolf” with a new 4K scan from the original 35mm negative and presented in a 1080p high-definition widescreen format of a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Rendering with clean textures and superb details, the image has remarkable vibrancy and hue balance in it’s tinctured technicolor. The transfer is virtually blemish-free, suggesting that the original negative aged well, with agreeable natural grain to complement the film stock. Scream Factory has produced the best looking version of this classic Hammer release. The English language DTS-HD single channel Master Audio renders, again, scot-free of aged distortion with the high-definition eminent boost to providing even clearer dialogue and untarnished ambient clattering during more turbulent scenes of laughter or beastly disarray. English subtitles are optional. A collector’s edition wouldn’t be complete with a slew of bonus materials and, boy, does “The Curse of the Werewolf” have brand spanking new material for the special features that include a new Roy Ashton tribute piece by his friend and “Little Shoppe of Horrors'” writer Richard Klemensen and new audio commentary with film historians Steve Haberman and Constantine Nasr. Plus, interviews with actors Catherine Feller, Yvonne Romain, Mike Hill, art director Don Mingaye, art department member Margaret Robinson, and filmmaker Jimmy Sangster in “The Making of The Curse of the Werewolf” featurette, a look at Lycanthropy that discusses whether man’s inner wolf can be a transformative source of mental will, a still gallery, and the theatrical trailer. The package is illustrated with Oliver Reed’s snarling werewolf persona by Mark Maddox, who designed Scream Factory’s “The Thing” release, and comes in a nifty cardboard slip cover. All in all, Scream Factory brought new life into the re-originating and re-orientating “The Curse of the Werewolf” that is, perhaps inarguably, the best Hammer upgrade to date.

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Run And Hid When Yuletide EVIL Comes A Calling! “Pagan Warrior” reviewed! (ITN Distribution / DVD)


In Medieval times of Sussex, England, a powerful English king, who has kept the seething Viking savages at bay for decades, has died, vacating the throne to his son, Rollo. The Vikings seize the opportunity during this time of transition and storm the Saxon Castle, nearly killing the monarchy and all of throne’s subjects left to oppose them. With their daughter Avery kidnapped and themselves on the brink of death, King Rollo and Queen Silvia are revived by two women of the woods, a pair of witch sisters known as Constance and Millicent, who use their mystical healing powers and offer the king retribution by summoning the Yuletide monster, Krampus. In return for slaughtering the Viking usurpers, the Krampus will collect his debt in exactly 10 years, taking whatever is precious and dear as payment from the vengeful King Rollo.

Krampus has become a major media trend over the last decade, popping up in all forms of popular culture that compounded lore inside the leafy pages of books and magazines to the beast’s frighteningly half-goat, half-man exterior making for great big screen monster entertainment. The inverse icon of jolly Saint Nicholas offers punitive measures for bad little girls and boys and is sometimes referred as a companion to Saint Nicholas who probably turned a decisive blind eye to little brat Johnny’s enjoyably thievery and torture of chickens from a neighboring farm. “Pagan Warrior” is yet another narrative of the Christmas creature spun with different fabric and woven into a bitter feud of two contending enemies told modestly by director Louisa Warren (“Tooth Fairy”), produced by Warren’s London, UK based production company, ChampDog Films, a creative outlet for independent film ventures that are mostly in the horror genre and are sometimes inferior versions of bigger budget films, in the same vein as Asylum Entertainment. The script comes from Shannon Holiday (“Bride of Scarecrow”) that conveys an ageless theme of beware of what you wish for and the price of blind vengeance.

“Pagan Warrior” hones in on numerous character stories, never clearly defining a single perspective. King Rollo, played by “Escape from Cannibal Farm’s Peter Cosgrove, becomes the royal fate sealer as what he deems necessary and right is, in fact, the worst possible scenario a mad king could bestow upon himself by calling upon the supernatural death dealers for revenge. Cosgrove cleans up nicely as an English blue blood whose bequest incorporates a lineage of fighting kings with Cosgrove taking his role with due importance despite a humbling filmmaking production. King Rollo’s counterpart, the merciless Viking Ubbe fitted for Carey Thring (“Scarecrow’s Revenge”), combats a war on two fronts – the contentious bout with King Rollo and an internal family squabble that beleaguer the bond between him and his wife (Kate Milner Evans, “Pet Graveyard”) and child (Adam Sugawara, “Virtual Death Match”) as he tries to court princess Avery with a crude sexual advances. Thring’s vision of Ubbe is a classically depicted villain whose stronger with allies and a whimpering coward when alone in a fight, especially when the Krampus comes calling for his head. Darrell Griggs dons the makeup, prosthetics, and wardrobe of the horned beast, becoming the folklore of a cursed death who not only pursues the 12 month progression of horrible children, but also the appointed damned when conjured for a hit. Krampus’ outward appearance is pleasing and Griggs provides the lumbering and slight preternatural motions that give Krampus that dreaded paranormal mysticism. “Pagan Warrior” rounds out with Sarah T. Cohen (“ClownDoll”), Jessica O’Toole (“Pet Graveyard”), Mike Kelson (“Scarecrow’s Revenge”), Hattie Willow (“The Mermaid’s Curse”), Will Todd (“Mummy Reborn”), and Tara MacGowran (“Mother Krampus”) and director Louisa Warren as the women of the woods.

ChampDog Films uses a tightknit group of actors and filmmakers to sell archaic swordplay action fastened against demonic folklore and despite the underwhelming band of Vikings versus an equally small English contingent squaring off in front of a historic English castle with virtually no ample practical or CGI era enhanced presentations, the production just barely eeks by with Feudal times. Wisely, Warren shoots a number of character closeup shots, avoiding much of the surrounding modern elements and forcing audiences to focus just on the characters who are dolled up for Medieval times roleplay. Where the battle scenes and smart camera work flourish, the Shannon Holiday script becomes the ultimate weak link in the chain with a predictable plot storied with terribly cliched and uninteresting characters that couldn’t grip a sword let alone one’s attention. The story begins with its most shocking ending scene, thwarting any possibility of surprise for even the most dense and cinematically uneducated individual for the ruse play out. There is also this millennium goof in the opening backstory credits indicating events take place in 812 AD and in the same breath, mentioned also is the three days of December 1812 that this episode occurs. Since 1812 England was all about redcoats, guns, and war with America colonies, I would assume 812 AD would be the correct time period against a Viking invasion.

In what is not exactly a Christmas holiday horror movie, the malediction of the “Pagan Warrior” spread little holiday cheer and more yesterday fear onto an ITN Distribution and Mill Creek Entertainment DVD. Presented in a widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ration, on a single layer DVD, sheathed inside a DVD cover that looks cooler than the actual movie itself, the lower end production avoids stylizing a historical based feature with tinted mattes, computer imagery, or any other miscellaneous camera effects seeking more toward a naturalistic cinematography that utilizes the hues at hand. Pastel blacks jump with noise and posterization from the electronic interference whereas the existing hues exhibit a less than rich approach of a more vapid green, brown, and stonewall beige. The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio mix maintains a level of consistency. Sometimes, Krampus’ dialogue is murky because of the extra gnarling effect parroting an LFE emitting voice; however, dialogue is mainly clear and prominent. English SDH is an available option. For a time period action-horror, the lack of rudimentary range and depth troubles with little sense into the effort of adding skirmishing swords and Krampus’ reverberating growls always seem to be right next to the camera. The only bonus feature available is the trailer. With conventional means of dispatching people, “Pagan Warrior” shadows more of the slasher concept conjured by the breath of the desperate who misfires judgment rather than being an omnipotent being summoned like a djinn for total annihilation in exchange for a debt in this good faith effort by Louisa Warren of Krampus diabolism.

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“Pagan Warrior” is also included with Amazon Prime!

War Brings All Sorts of EVIL. “Under the Shadow” reviewed! (Second Sight / Blu-ray)


Set in conflict of the Iran-Iraq war, the young and educated Shideh living in war-frightened Tehran becomes forced to succumb to patriarchal dogma after participating in a revolution against Iran’s standing principals. Her husband’s conscription sends his medical experience to the battle front while she settles into her role as a stay at-home mother to their young daughter and despite pleas from her husband, the stubborn Shideh will not vacate her apartment building home even when the threat of an Iraqi attack is imminent. When a dud ballistic missile crashes into the apartment about them, nearly breaking through their ceiling, the fear of a sinister presence circulates amongst the tenants that drives them one-by-one from the building with the prospect of an Iraqi attack to further motivate as a logical decider. An unsuperstitious Shideh remains until her daughter’s imagery whims and unwavering fever begin to form a more terrorizing atmosphere that even has her questioning the shadowy company of evil.

Not many horror films scare nowadays. “Under the Shadow” is not one of those films. The debut feature film of writer-director Babak Anvari posses a rare commodity of grueling fear set inside an already tense backdrop of the 1980’s Iran-Iraqi war. Anvari, the Tehran born Iranian nationality who was engulfed religiously in the culture, borrowed and rendered his from his family’s stories of supernatural pre-Islamic demons whisking through the wind toward those swimming in sorrow and fear; those demons were also labeled djinns. As a child born in the 80’s, Anvari had to rely and family to obtain a sense of the anxious air suffocating those taut by potential missle strikes as well as political and social punitive measures going against the grain. The UK based independent production company, Wigwam Films, financed the BAFTA winner for an Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer as well as receiving other nomination nods in other categories, serving as one of young production company’s shining stars early in the tenure.

Wrought by the explosive squabbles of two sovereign nations and incepted with archaic folklore, Shideh’s bound and torn between reality and the prospect of superstition, a role dutifully played by another Iranian born, Narges Rashidi, whose family moved to Berlin and she studied acting, scoring a minor role in the motion picture adaptation of the science fiction television series, “Aeon Flux,” and in the 2009 comedy-horror “Must Love Death.” Rashidi courts Sheideh approvingly with sincere strife over how women serving beneath men in 1980’s Iran as well as struggling to overcome that internal conflict as the mirror image of herself, meaning her daughter, when a phantom prowler is afoot. Portraying Shideah’s daughter, Dorsa, and the frequent link between the Djinn’s world and her own is Avin Manshadi in her debut performance. Manshadi’s round cheeks and doughy eyes set upon a physique stilling lingering some ounces of baby fat has little range, but most creepy kids and in creepy kid horror films rarely do. Rashidi and Manshadi fend well for themselves as the sole two characters cornered by war and Shideh’s personal vendetta against her country, her husband, and even her daughter to prove she isn’t useless as the motif lets on. “Under the Shadow” rounds out with Bobby Naderi (“Bright”), Aram Ghasemy, Soussan Farroknia, Behi Djanati Atai, and Ray Haratian (“A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night”).

“Under the Shadow” finds itself in a subgenre nearly all it’s own as the variety of djinn-horror anemically pops up every so often as an unpopular and uncoiled viper, unlike the antagonist powerhouses of zombies and ghosts that’ve reigned supreme over the last two decades, and though Anvari’s film shares little with Robert Kurtzman’s demonic djinn of 1997’s “Wishmaster,” “Under the Shadow” has more in common with the late Tobe Hooper’s last film, entitled simply Djinn, before his death. Both are built on the substructure of an Arabic/Muslin mythology, set on an apartment building locale, and exhibit the malevolency side of the djinn, but Babak Anvari accomplishes a great feat on his very first attempt – a stiffly frightening air of a phenomenally harrowing horror story. Anvari patiently stacks blocks of tension, one on top of another, without a hint of quivering throughout the acts and what’s more astonishing is that all the acts deliver different notes prosed to detail that secures a simmering, shivering plot. To praise Anvari more, the young filmmaker leaves nothing to chance by closing with an open ending for the mind to assemble information and interpret the events; a classic directorial tool used by some of the greats.

Shuttering in the dark has never been so delectable with “Under the Shadow” inside a packed, limited edition Blu-ray from Second Sight Films. The LE runs with only 2000 copies sheathed inside a rigid slipcover with covert art by science fiction artist, Christopher Shy. Global horror aficionados will rejoice to learn that the UK BD disc is region free and presented in a widescreen, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, that’ll be available February 10th. Unfortunately, Second Sight Films provided a DVD-R Blu-ray screener so I’m unable to speak upon the video and audio aside from what’s already been stated. I will say the subtitles were accurate and timely paced. There were special features on the disc, including segmented interviews with director Babak Anvari, lead actress Narges Rashidi, producers Lucan Toh and Oliver Roskill, cinematographer Kit Fraser along with an audio commentary Babak Anvari and Jamie Graham and Anvari’s short film “Two and Two.” Press release also mentioned the release includes a soft cover book with new essays from Jon Towlson and Daniel Bird plus behind-the-scenes photos and concept illustrations and a poster featuring new artwork. “Under the Shadow” must be watched in the dark, alone, and with the volume up, maximizing the crawling chill down the spine and raising all the micro hairs on every square inch of skin.

Kindergarten Field Trips Was Never This EVIL! “Little Monsters” reviewed!


Dave, a failed, down on his luck musician with a penchant for doing the wrong thing, volunteers to chaperone a kindergarten field trip to a popular outdoor petting zoo park attraction intent on gaining the affection of his 5-year-old nephew’s perky teacher, Miss Caroline. Also at the attraction is an American children’s’ television personality, Teddy McGiggle, travelling the world with his latest stop in Australia. All seems well and dandy until the U.S. stationed Army base adjacent to the petting zoo loses control of the highly aggressive rejuvenation test subjects and are overrun by the lemming of slow, flesh-eating zombies that stagger bit by bit toward the park’s touristy patrons. With every last living, breathing thing either turned undead or eaten to the spinal cord, Dave, Miss Caroline, and Teddy McGiggle must fight against the outbreak for not only their survival, but for the troop of young and impressionable kindergarteners thinking what’s happening is nothing more than a prolonged game of tag before the gung-ho U.S. military sanction of eradicating airstrike right on their location.

The lumbering zombie canon enjoys a delightfully endearing and rousingly tucked zom-rom comedy, “Little Monsters,” with children being the heartfelt conquerors to slay the funk the genre has been stagnantly lingering inside. Written and directed by up and coming filmmaker Abe Forsythe, the internationally collaborated production from the U.S., United Kingdom, and Australia delivers a brashly funny film under the guise of long-pigged zombie horror shot primarily in Sydney, Australia at Centennial Park. Not to be confused with the Fred Savage children’s film of the same title from 1989 that also starred funny man Howie Mandel, Forsythe’s “Little Monsters’” head lopping, guts coiling, and every four letter word in the profanity bible goes to infinity and beyond the parental guidance rating.

Perfect performances all around from a dynamically intercontinental collaborative cast starting off with Lupita Nyong’o. The “Us” actress, who should have won an Oscar for her performance in the Jordan Peele film, astounds again with a delicately frank and beautifully sage performance as the alluring kindergarten teacher Miss Caroline whose number one priority is to protect her class of 5-year-olds, physically and mentally, at all costs. Counter to Miss Caroline seemingly having her stuff together, the raucously detached Dave immediate sets his whirlwind claws right into Miss Caroline, attempting to attract her with disinformation about his stable state of mind and being; however, Dave to the core is a good guy harnessed by Australian actor Alexander England (“Alien: Covenant”) who adds the rough edges around Dave’s stagnant and serrated lifestyle. Though different on the surface level, Caroline and Dave do have rooted similarities that spark romance after some convincing through zombie tribulations and scenario finesse; Nyong’o and England singe around the edge of attraction that’s goes from a seething disaster to being playfully coy and tender that works confidently on screen. When you through Josh Gad into the mix, you never know what to expect in terms of a wild card character. The “Frozen” star pulls off Olaf on hard drugs as Teddy McGiggle as Gad’s voice is unmistakably the overly friendly snowman who likes warm hugs but with a lot more F bombs and a dee seeded disgust for kids show personality that results him bedding many of his toddler fans’ moms. I wasn’t sure how Gad was going to pull off a zombie epic, but his gas-riot performance is a spiked drink compared to other who dances around the children’s innocence and the fact Teddy McGiggle is a kids show personality elevates his crude conduct to that more pungent. “Little Monsters” round out with Kat Stewart, Marshall Napier (“The Beast”), Diesel La Torraca as Felix.

The word from my inner circle of moviegoers, those who have little interest in horror and more interests in fast cars and vast explosions, say something along the lines that “Little Monsters” was “okay,” “Didn’t really do it for them,” or “I didn’t watch the last 20 minutes.” Disclaimer: These people are really not close friends, but barely colleagues, and since “Little Monsters” is being cut down by popcornist naysayers, their opinions have itty-bitty merit awarded to their poor judgement in taste of good, funny, and superbly acted eye-candy horror cinema with pocket messages of insufferable loneliness, hidden internal commonality, and the caliber in what makes us human that piece together as collectively relatable. If these aspects do not register with you, then you’re not human, but rather a 7-headed martian with tentacles and a pea-size purple brain. “Little Monsters” has some good gritty zombies at work here that juxtapose against the tender nature of children and the only thing between these children being lunch are three damaged adults searching for something meaningful. The apocalypse becomes a fork in the road, an ultimatum, that tests their worth and Aby Forsythe bombards that fateful decision with little notes of comedy, witty banter, and a clear case carnage.

“Little Monsters” takes a field trip to Blu-ray DVD home video, and digital download February 10th from UK distributor, Altitude Film Entertainment. “Little Monsters” is a production of Made Up Stories, Protagonist Pictures (“31” and “Lords of Chaos“), and Snoot Entertainment (“Dude Bro Massacre III” and “You’re Next”). Unfortunately, a DVD-R was provided for review so no audio or video quality critiques will be touched up, but the upcoming region B Blu-ray is listed as a BD-50, 1080p Full HD, and presented in the original 2.39:1 widescreen aspect ratio with an English language DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. There were no special features listed in the press release and there were none available on the DVD-R. Finding a way to harness everything sacred from the zombie genre and then creating something new, interesting, and captive from start to finish to blend is a victory melange of wall-to-wall wit and feral monsters leaves “Little Monsters” as the horror romantic comedy that has it all.

High School Musical Meets EVIL in “Anna and the Apocalypse” reviewed!


Anna’s a senior at Little Haven high school whose not thinking about what University to attend after she graduates. Instead, Anna focuses on working all the time as a shoe counter girl at the local bowling alley to pay off a year’s worth of traveling despite her father’s wishes, even working through Christmas, but when a sudden zombie apocalypse derails her and the worlds’ plans, Anna’s friends and father are her first priority. With her father trapped at the high school, Anna and her closest friends must trek and battle through a horde of the undead from the bowling alley before striking out dead themselves. Despite social differences and teenage angst, they must dance and sing to put now frivolous juvenile issues aside and work together if to not become one of the living dead.

Timed just right from 2019’s Christmas holiday season is Second Sight Films’s two-disc set of “Anna and the Apocalypse,” a contagiously fun, well performed, and cheekily gory musical comedy-horror by the United Kingdom’s John McPhail directing a script written by Alan McDonald and the late Ryan McHnery, based off McHenry’s short student film “Zombie Musical.” As true to the marketing behind the film, “Anna and the Apocalypse” is certainly the “High School Musical” with teeth-gnashing, putrid-walking, and flesh hungry zombies. The Scottish bred production comes from Blazing Griffin Films, Parkhouse Productions, Constellation Creatives and Creative Scotland to flash mob dance and sing in chorus through the apocalyptic melee while figuring out their complicated adolescent troubles, such as what to do after graduation, turbulent romantic emotions, and being different and alone.

The ensemble cast is heftily made up of unknown talent beginning with, then 17 year old, Ella Hunt in her debut lead performance as the titular character. Hunt’s a fresh, young face with an astonishing amount of acting range with Anna whose defiant against the wishes of her father, but, deep down inside, still wholeheartedly cares for him as he’s her only parent left alive, and Hunt has natural poppin’ dance moves and pop-star vocals. In Anna’s core group of friends, Sarah Swire’s Steph North stands amongst them as the LGBTQ representative whose strongly portrayed as courageous, caring, and independent while her characterization at the beginning of the films focuses on downing her life to the pit of despair with parents, who Steph claims wants nothing to do with her, are on holiday in Mexico and her romantic partner won’t be spending the holiday with her. Swire’s choreographic and musician background, along with an edgy look, make her a perfect fit for Steph. There’s also Anna’s best friend, a boy named John, played by Malcolm Cummings in his first feature film. Cummings has to be the hapless friend zone boy that remains sidelined when trying to find the opportune time in expressing his true feelings for Anna, but finds himself the third wheel in a high school love triangle conscripted with Nick, a hot-to-trot prick and bully colorfully depicted by Ben Wiggins. Christopher Leveaux and Marli Siu are the gang’s love birds, Mark Benton is Anna’s custodian father, and “Game of Thrones'” Paul Kaye antagonizes with a power hungry assistant headmaster gone crazy!

Honesty, I wasn’t sure how “Anna and the Apocalypse” was going to work, or be successful, or be entertaining at all as a horror movie. Horror-musicals are a rare breed that come with a mind-boggling quantitative algorithm to make them truly work wonders and, somehow, John McPhail dusted off his abacus, powered up his TI calculator, and put note to pen to paper and delivered a holiday spectacular on a horror scale stage. The horror, though very prominent and unmistakable, takes a backseat to the powerful soundtrack by the ensemble cast, ranging from caricatured with Fish Wrap to the desolation of personal connectivity with Human Voice to a couple of Christmas satires to bring a little joy with the merry mayhem. The mayhem is absolute with all the trimmings of a zombie apocalypse, even right down to the military being the butt of a joke when they’re overrun by a slow-moving force, but while there’s some gore early on with a dead head decapitated by a see-saw and a pair of bowling balls pop the top of one alleyway corpse, the blood flows downward to a little more than a dribble and “Anna and the Apocalypse” cobbles together a mere mediocre zombie film from then on out.

Already seen a couple of standard releases from other distributors, Second Sight Films reserved “Anna and the Apocalypse” to the royal treatment with a special features heavy region B, two-disc Blu-ray set containing two versions of the film – the theatrical release cut and the extended version which will include a musical number that didn’t make the theatrical cut. The Arri Alexa SXT shot film is presented in 1080p and in the film’s original aspect ratio, a widescreen 2.37:1, with a featured ProRes 3.2k format that allows upscaling to UHD quality providing a high resolution output that’s clean and bright. The color palate has real vibrancy under the director of photography’s, Sara Deane, direction to use colorful outfits and neoned and darkened sets. Some scenes become a little choppy with some sloppy editing work, but as a whole, the story remains coherent. The English language DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 vivaciously energizes the soundtrack with alternative pop numbers, harmonious melodies, and a synchronized chorus, but there are times the dialogue falls into a lossy grey area. A stereo 2.0 track is also available as well as optional English SDH subtitles. The Second Sights Films’ release is chock full of extras with disc one including an audio commentary with director John McPhail, writer Alan McDonald, composers Roddy Hart and Tommy Reilly, a behind-the-scenes featurette, an alternate opening scene, a deleted song “What Side Are You On?”, a deleted bathroom scene, the Hollywood Ending cast and crew lip dub, footage from the EdinBurgh Film Festival, and, of course outtakes. Disc two includes a brand new feature-length documentary with new interviews by the actors and filmmakers. Plus, the original short film – “Zombie Musical.” A definite definitive two-disc set from Second Sight Films goes hand-in-hand with “Anna and the Apocalypse’s” feel good charm and unruly undead charisma complete with catchy tunes and bloody zombie goons in a modern day holiday cult classic.

Two-Disc Blu-ray Set of “Anna and the Apocalypse!” The perfect Christmas Gift!