‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ is a horror-romance that mirrors Jane Austen’s 1813 novel about the difficulties of marriage and true love, just with one minor twist: senseless brain-eating zombies.
Any high school English or Literature teacher expecting to see the embrace of Austen’s literature effervescence will be pleasantly surprised with the appearance of much of her original high-end aristocratic characters, as well as tea and scones, but do prepare yourselves for a high-intensity blood bath brought to you by large muskets and sharpened machetes.
Adapting Seth-Grahame Smith’s 2009 parody novel ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ to film, director Burr Steers, also known for working with Hollywood Heartthrob Zac Efron in ’17 again’, unfortunately seems to misinterpret the overall satirical concept that is Grahame-Smith’s dark-humored parody, instead interpreting the screenplay with a more serious undertone, conveying a similar dramatic aesthetic to the 2005 adaptation of Austen’s novel starring Keira Knightly, and only finding small moments of comic relief, often by accident, with cheesy and somewhat embarrassing one-liners and scenes.
Initially, the audience is presented with a sketch-like pop-up book to emulate Grahame-Smith’s novel, explaining how the apocalyptic predicament and disease was spread, causing those infected to turn mutant-like and possess an un-relinquishing craving for brains, while surprisingly remaining highly intelligent; in turn, making for some cunning maneuvers in an effort to ambush the living.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is set in 19th-century Victorian period England, where we are entertained by the same aristocratic British characters as Austen’s novel.
The trained Chinese martial arts and knives expert Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James), is caught within a love-hate relationship with Fitzwilliam Darcy (Sam Riley), another bad-ass zombie killing expert, and his charming arch-nemesis George Wickam (Jack Huston). For the majority of the film, the original Pride and Prejudice novel is closely adhered to, of course with frequent appearances from their friends and neighbors in the bloodthirsty apocalyptic form of the undead, regularly turning their heads to reveal a gruesome and gorey half removed face.
What sounds like a B-grade zombie film, steps up to the plate with some highly realistic and visually horrific zombie make-up and effects that truly made me feel a little sick at times. As the film progresses, the plot moves slightly away from the original novel, and we are invited into the ongoing war between the army of the undead and Her Majesty’s forces, as well as being introduced to some deceiving characters, whose intentions are not what they seem, as well as some appearances of familiar television faces, such as ‘Game of Thrones’ Lena Headey, who plays the valiant conqueror Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
From an acting perspective, the vast majority of the cast portrayed their characters quite well.
All five of the Bennet sisters (Lily James, Bella Heathcote, Ellie Bamber, Millie Brady and Suki Waterhouse) were successfully able to catch the bad-ass heroine side of their zombie-slaying characters, while at the same time, conveying more complex personalities unique to each sister, as well as revealing a playful and natural sisterly bond, regularly taunting each other for being looked upon by other men.
However, my favorite performance goes to Matt Smith, most commonly known for his role as The Doctor in the infamous television show, ‘Doctor Who’ (2010-2014). Smith played the film’s amusingly awkward comic relief, Parson Collins, who remains blind to the acuity of the Zombie takeover, but wide open to his own self-admiration and wealth, making me wonder how his character survived that long to make it on film.
Unfortunately, what let me down was Sam Riley’s portrayal of Mr. Darcy, which consequently was not helpful to the film’s whole.
His overly husky voice came across as though he was trying to compete with the zombies, and his perception of pride and passion comes off as disheartened and bland. It’s hard to believe in one of the most famous literature romances, when it appears that romance is a dead emotion.
If you’re seeking a romantic film this weekend, but are also a zombie or horror fanatic, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” is the way to go. It remains a very much heartfelt romance, with an exceedingly believable zombie infestation plot. Even though it is a rather strange film, it’s not too bizarre that you leave dazed and confused. It’s a 50-50 blend of Austen and Grahame-Smith’s narratives that has proven to be better than what most filmgoers would expect just from hearing its title.
My rating: 5.5/10