Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – Is Jane Austen spinning in her grave?

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It seems rather a waste of words to outline the plot of Burr Steers‘ new film Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, simply because this film is really nothing more or less than what it says on the tin: it is Pride and Prejudice with zombies inserted at opportune moments. The climax of the film replaces the elopement of Lydia and Wickham with kidnap and zombie hordes, but I found myself wishing that Steers had treated the original text with far less reverence. Most noticeably though, the primary fault of the film is that it can’t decide if it wants to be a romantic tale of 18th century courtship or a zombie slasher flick.

As someone who loves both Jane Austen and zombie films – not a phrase I get to write very often – I had a vague, and probably foolish, hope for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I wanted it to work for the sake of the shear incongruity of the idea. The film manages the drawing room scenes and polite conversation adequately, but fails with the zombies. Steers does not seem to have grasped the fact that no one likes it when you mess with the established trope of the undead. Zombies shuffle and eat brains, sometimes they run but they do not talk and they do not plan strategic attacks on London. Instead of groaning, flesh eating corpses, the audience is forced to endure semi-decayed, yet still chatty, aristocrats. The film attempts to raise some questions about class division; the rich hide in their stately homes, while the poor are left to die and rise again. However, as the protagonist belongs to the upper classes the message that is conveyed is ‘let them rot’, in more ways than one.

On a positive note, Lily James and Sam Riley give strong performances, both physically and verbally, as the sparring Elizabeth and Darcy. Matt Smith is surprisingly funny as the bumbling Mr Collins and Sally Philips also brings comedy to her role as Mrs Bennet. The transformation of the character Lady Catherine de Bourgh to an eye-patch wearing, sword swinging Lena Hedley makes very little sense however, both in regards to the original text and to the plot of the film. It was also impossible to ignore the fact that Douglas Booth’s hair would look more at home in a boyband than in a stately home.

The question I was left with when I left the cinema was ‘why’? Firstly, why did I waste an hour and a half of my life on this? And secondly, why was this film made in the first place? Did we learn nothing from Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter? Sure, it’s fun to watch Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy work out their sexual tension through hand to hand combat, but Pride and Prejudice and Zombies really brings nothing new to Jane Austen or to zombies. All I can say is that I hope Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters is the period drama/horror mashup masterpiece we’re all waiting for.

Xa Rodger

Image courtesy of Lionsgate

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