Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Review
It is a truth universally acknowledged that an author in possession of a good novel, must be in want of the addition of zombies. However little known the feelings or views of such an author may be on her work being adapted in such a way, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the movie studios, that she is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their directors.
In Regency England a terrible and mysterious plague has caused the dead to rise and eat the brains of the living. Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) and her sisters are expected to be as proficient in the deadly arts as they are the feminine, with their father eager to see them survive and their mother eager to see them well married. Lizzie must fight for both her heart and her life after encountering the handsome and deadly Mr Darcy (Sam Riley).
Dear reader, I have a confession to make. I have undergone a journey that is not unlike that of Jane Austen’s heroine Lizzie Bennet. I came across a film that I was not prepared to like, and actually had quite a lot of prejudice against. However like Lizzie I realised my mistake and was able to see the film for its good points and can now honestly, bizarrely, state that I really greatly enjoyed Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. This film is fun, entertaining, and from the paper theatre opening credits to the mid credits final scene you realise that this has had more thought put into it than you would guess from the throwaway premise.
Probably redundant to say at this point, but I’m a bit of a Jane Austen fan. I am by no means an expert and I don’t worship at the altar of Mr Darcy, but I’ve had a long-time love of her writing. I’m also very fond of zombie films, so you’d think the concept of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was ready-made for me, but it’s something I’ve never before been able to get behind. My biggest issue with the book was that it was a one-note joke that ran out quickly. It’s basically just the text of the original novel with the zombies popping up occasionally, almost like you’re switching channels between the BBC drama and a George Romero film. The book doesn’t actually do anything with the premise of a zombie apocalypse in a historical setting. The film, however, takes full advantage of its set-up. It actually builds a world for the characters to inhabit and plays out a story that is its own rather than just doing a straight costume drama and tacking on the horror element awkwardly. This gives the film a much better flow to it. The romance between the Bennet sisters and their men is still present the way we know and love it, but now with an added element of action that allows the girls to come to the rescue. There is something very satisfying about a society that wants a girl to be able to execute a headshot with just as much skill as embroidering a cushion cover. The zombies themselves also look great; they’re well designed, nasty and in a few places a little disturbing. The film adapts one of the more memorable moments in the book of a zombie mother and infant to great effect. I admit that I was a little concerned at the use of talking, somewhat sentient, zombies, but as the film went on I saw that there was a reason for this, and it ultimately works in the context.
The entire cast do an excellent job of playing these tougher, somewhat darker, interpretations of the classic characters. Who can’t love Mr Darcy’s Most Awkward and Worst Proposal Ever being followed by a hand to hand duel? However there has to be a special mention for Matt Smith as Mr Collins, who inhabits the character perfectly to the point of stealing almost every scene he’s in.
Are there moments that aren't great? Of course, there are plot holes to be found, cheesiness that doesn’t always work, and a criminal under-using of Lena Headey, but there’s such a sincere energy to the film that it is possible to let it go. It’s not going to be for everyone, certainly, but for those who just let themselves give it a chance there is so much to enjoy.
To paraphrase another one of Austen’s heroes, if I loved this film less I might be able to talk about it more. It unabashedly is what it is, and it delights in that. So whether you’re a Janeite or a Deadite Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a pretty good way to spend your time.