Musical zombies!

Anna and the apocalypse, musical zombies Musical zombies? Really. No kidding: it’s not quite as rare as you’d think. Strangely enough, zombie music spans the decades, including two features, at least one theme song and an Off-Broadway show.

One thing that’s been pointed out a million times is the reallly remarkable role that George Romero’s The Night of the Living Dead played in the creation of modern zombie culture. It all started there, in that microbudget black-and-white monster movie with its tiny, near-amateur cast – a movie that doesn’t even use the word “zombie” a single time. It is the beginning. There were a few voodoo movies, like I Walked with the Zombie and White Zombie before it, but those were about voodoo priests or witches raising up one dead body to do their bidding – more like a bad case of possession – and they were nothing like the flesh-eating dead, in all its variations, that we see today. No: the mass resurrection of the dead who come shambling back to feed on the living – you can shake a finger at October 1, 1968., and the premiere of Night of the Living Dead, as its starting point.

Look at the huge subculture that’s grown from that one film over the last forty-five years. Tons of movies that just won’t stop. Best-selling books – at one point, a whole publishing company that sold nothing but zombie books. The Walking Dead and iZombie and The Last of Us and zombie walks year-round in every city in America…

And yes, there are even zombie musicals.

At the top of the list: Anna and the Apocalypse, about high school kids in a Pleasantville-level community that have to survive a straight-on Living Dead outbreak. Weirdly, most of the music in this isn’t about being risen from the dead. It’s more about the ennui of living in a small town or the disillusionment of adolescence, or even how love endures… but not about the zom. Not that the tunes aren’t catchy, or the lyrics pretty clever: they are. Like this cut from one of best of them, “There’s No Such Thing As a Happy Ending.”

It really is a lot of fun, and the only place you can see the walking dead slaughtered with giant candy canes (yes, one of Anna’s other virtues – it’s a Christmas movie!). And the opening sequence – essentially a riff off Shawn of the Dead’s opening “clueless tour of the neighborhood during the outbreak” – is worth the price of admission alone.

But it ain’t the only one. That clever litte dig at Disney in Anna actually tells the tail: Disney itself has produced a whole series of increasingly embarrassing zombie musicals, beginning with Z-O-M-B-I-E-S, back in 2018. Milo Mannheim, who co-stars in the non-musical Netflix series School Spirits, is the football-playing romantic-leading-zom here, and though the second and third movie in the series add in werewolves and aliens and all sorts of crap, the first one does actually have a song about being undead:

Well-produced, like everything by the Mouse, but not what you’d call classic.

But if you want to talk bad bad, you have to go back to 1987, and another super-low-budget zombie movie .. and this one is truly awful: I Was A Teenage Zombie, vicious and reanimated from – seriously – tainted marijuana. In terms of production values, acting, writing, or even basic charm, there is nothing, nothing to recommend this movie … except for the theme song, performed by The Fleshtones. Here.

So, okay: not a zombie musical, maybe, but zombie music theme music, that made a hard run at being the Monster Mash of the Eighties… and failed.

But there is at least one more legit zombie musical … just not on film. It is – or was,, for a while – on stage. Way back in the ancient days of pre-pandemic America, a guy named Jordan Wolfe created a full-on musical… comedy? … based on the original Romero movie, and when you think about it, that’s actually a pretty good idea. Night, as a plot, is perfect for a stage adaptation: a single set, a limited cast, plenty of room for staged violence and broad characters.

When Night of the Living Dead showed up off-Broadway, it did pretty well. It might even have made it farther up the Great White Way, except COVID stopped that dead (so to speak). Still, a few of JordanWolfe’s numbers still survive in clips on YouTube, and here’s a piece of the opening song …

Our advice: enjoy all of the above… then sit back and enjoy all of Anna and the Apocalypse, available on Amazon Prime. And Shudder.

 

 

 

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