PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES
Gore on Bennet!
released 27 June 2016 | 15 | blu-ray/dvd/ vod/download Director Burr steers Cast lily James, sam riley, sally Phillips, Matt smith
If the existence of this silly supernatural adaptation of her most famous book caused Jane Austen to turn over in her grave, well, that’d only be appropriate. The plot of Pride And Prejudice And Zombies is self-explanatory: it’s the familiar story of the headstrong but penniless Lizzy Bennet (Lily James) falling in love with stern gentleman Mr Darcy (Sam Riley), except this time they have to battle the living dead while they’re at it. Surprisingly, it just about works.
Mostly that’s because writer/ director Burr Steers has a solid understanding of both the themes of the original novel and the appeal of Seth Grahame-Smith’s zombified version. His film makes significant changes to both – the final act is completely new – but Austen’s social satire is intact, as is Grahame-Smith’s wacky zombie carnage. The Bennet sisters retain their original personalities, but gain advanced combat skills. There’s cleverness underscoring the dopey concept, and Steers wisely focuses on the complicated relationships between the characters instead of the comparatively straightforward zombie slaying. Rather than replacing the emotional conflict, the physical violence heightens it, often to comic effect.
The film has a lot of fun juxtaposing period details with zombie movie clichés, too. The image of a primly dressed woman turning around to reveal the rotting face beneath her bonnet never stops being brilliantly jarring, no matter how many times it happens. And there’s something irresistible about the way the Bennets produce scary-looking daggers from underneath their demure dresses. But despite the inherent absurdity of the concept, it’s all played pretty straight, the actors somehow managing to deliver Austen’s dialogue with straight faces even when they’re chopping up the undead at the same time.
It’s a shame that the horror side of things is never entirely convincing, and the climactic zombie battle is by far the least interesting part of the film. Zombies are more effective when they’re wreaking havoc in stately homes than when they’re swarming across the battlefield. Stapling a big action movie finale onto a comedy of manners was never going to work, though, so perhaps it’s enough that the fighting eventually pushes all the characters towards their happy endings, weddings and all.
In the end, Jane Austen can rest in peace. Underneath its greying, brain-hungry exterior, Pride And Prejudice And Zombies is actually pretty respectful of her work. Oddly, that means Regency literature buffs will get as much (or more!) out of this madcap genre mashup as horror fans will.
Extras Seven deleted scenes (nine minutes); four featurettes; a “mash-up” of Mr Collins’s best lines; a gag reel.
Stunt choreographers made sure to give each zombie-killing Bennet sister her own distinct fighting style.
Count Olaf had at least enjoyed his demise.