When I first heard the title of this movie I thought that director Burr Steers was one of those quirky eccentrics trying to make a kind of hybrid genre, mixing an English literary classic with a modern day zombie-apocalypse-style script. However, further research told me that the film is based on a novel written by Seth Grahame-Smith, and my initial thoughts were ‘Wow, the world has gone completely mad!’
The film opens in the classic location of a Jane Austen novel, beautiful long shots of 19th century England in the picturesque countryside with the introduction of Colonel Darcy (formerly Mr) galloping on his horse towards an estate reminiscent of Downton Abbey.
Cut to some shots of a family gathering where Mr Darcy is investigating the recent Zombie epidemic that has taken over the country, and it's pretty obvious we're not in Austen's world anymore. Next we see Darcy slay the patriarch of the family who has been infected, followed by two of the younger female members of the family (also zombies) taking out the whole house.
After being introduced to the apocalyptic sub plot of the movie, we are then presented with some of the more recognisable characters from the original Pride and Prejudice; the Bennet family. Like the novel, the story mainly focuses on Elizabeth and Jane Bennet, whose mother wishes for nothing more than marry off her five daughters to any eligible wealthy gentleman.
Cue the modern satire, where it appears that unlike the classic, Mr Bennet has sent his daughters off to have martial arts and combat training to turn them into modern day, zombie fighting heroines… In a comedic attempt to transform the Bennet sisters from Damsels into Feminists, the director gives us a wealth of scenes of the sisters outbraving some of the men in the film, slaying countless zombies, whilst balancing the predicament of their love lives.
The main plot though, is the original love/hate relationship between Elizabeth (Lily James) and Mr Darcy (Sam Riley) which features a casual dual, lots of silent stares and a mutual stubbornness in admitting their true feelings for one another. Added to this is Jane Benett’s troubled relationship with Mr Bingley and Elizabeth’s blossoming relationship with George Wickham, whom turns out to be not all he appears (a zombie perhaps?) …
In the battle of High Society vs the Zombies, the film becomes Jane Austen meets Jackie Chan meets Horrible Histories, and sometimes it felt like I was watching three different movies at once. I am all for re-adapting classics to make them relevant to a modern day audience, but I can’t help feeling that when Seth Grahame-Smith wrote the original novel, he just took a quintessential romance novel loved by so many women and made it gory so it would appeal to a male audience too.
The humour in the film seemed forced; structured around the ridiculous idea of incorporating Pride and Prejudice with a Walking Dead concept, and how the two don’t really fit. The zombie concept, while being comedic at first, slowly becomes annoyingly random and doesn’t add anything to the plot as inevitably the film has the same outcome as the original. In true Jane Austen fashion all the couples unite in ‘Happily Ever After’, after saving a sister from a kidnapper, assassinating a few hundred zombies and blowing up a bridge….
With that taken into consideration, I would argue that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a half-hearted attempt at an American satire Slasher movie (like the Wayans brother’s Scary Movie), but the concept is never fully embraced and lacks continuity leaving the audience feeling underwhelmed.
The only comedic saving grace is standout character Parson Collins (Matt Smith) with his witty dialogue, social awkwardness, camp demeanour and inappropriate one liners. His small role in the plot provided much of the humour and it had nothing to do with blood and gore!
If you’re a big fan of the classic Pride and Prejudice I would advise sticking the original, but if you hate the ‘lovey dovey-ness’ of Valentine’s Day and the predictability of the classic Rom-Com then maybe this film is right up your street!
This Valentines Day at FACT you can take your pick from two classic movies: You've Got Mail and Casablanca.