Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Directed by Burr Steers
Starring Lily James, Sam Riley, Bella Heathcote, Matt Smith, Douglas Booth
Review by Jordan
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains
Enjoyment of genre mash-up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is not based on preference for Austin’s examination of the coupling of wealthy British socialites or schlocky encounters of the undead, but rather the appeal, or lack thereof, of its straight-faced humour; taking a bite at classic literature while also respecting it’s more endearing qualities.
Seth Graham-Smith’s cult novel is presented by director Burr Steers as an unexpectedly faithful adaptation (though that term is used loosely) of the seminal story of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy, who just happen to meet in a country burdened by zombie infestation where if you’re not fashionable and forego traveling to Japan for your samurai training, you’re wise and head to the Shaolin temples of China. The unwavering and arrogant demeanour of the gravelly voiced and leather jacket-wearing Darcy (Riley) hints in no subtle manner at the often dry tone of what’s to come, while the Bennet sisters, led by the headstrong (and just generally strong) Elizabeth (James) and Jane (Heathcoat) offer more of a wink to the audience as they sheath their swords and knives and spar in the basement. The sometimes fleeting moments where everyday activities or outlets are adapted for this bleak and dangerous environment are among the funniest, with the sight of an English gentleman flailing his sword around a topiary garden at night, outside the window of his unattainable love’s room in frustration, in the place of nervously pacing being far funnier than it might sound.
The cast in general is strong, with Sally Phillips, Jack Huston and Lena Headey (instantly recognizable for her role in 300 and Game of Thrones) portraying supporting characters in an entertaining fashion, even if their roles are underwritten. Matt Smith though is the crowd pleaser, and for good reason. His Parson Collins is the atypical bumbling fool: wealthy and entitled but clumsy enough both physically and verbally to brighten the mood in any scene he stumbles into, with his habit of willingly accepting even the vaguest of compliments a trait that never wears thin.
This is what’s most appealing about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: the apparent care that all involved seem to have to create something of more substance than its title suggests. While it is brought to treacherous earth by lack of excitement in the areas of action and horror, unoriginal choreography, blurry background CG environments and a lack of payoff other than that of the romantic variety, these are all trumped by the fact that the viewer is invited to have fun with this movie, and not given reason to decline. Even the opening credits are fetching, and it’s that attention to detail that elevates this above the zombie hoardes.