Gore on Ben­net!

SFX - - Reviews - Sarah Dobbs

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.

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