Thursday, 3 March 2016

Film Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

It's Jane Austen meets George Romero; after being stuck in production hell for what seems like a lifetime, Seth Grahame-Smith's horror novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies finally arrives on the big screen - and it's the greatest guilty pleasure of 2016 so far. 

As crossovers go, this has got to be one of the strangest and unlikeliest. Set in an alternate version of Jane Austen's quintessential 19th Century novel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies couples the classic English countryside setting with brain-eating, lumbering undead monsters. As per usual, the premise revolves around five sisters who must contend with the pressures of aristocracy, marriage and social hierarchy - whilst also defending against hordes of zombies.

Lily James takes the lead role of Elizabeth Bennett and fits it like a delicate lace glove. Hot off the heels of her breakout role in Kenneth Branagh's Cinderella, James is in her element as she swooshes around ballrooms in corseted gowns and trades quips with dashing young gents like Sam Riley as Mr. Darcy. Better still, she jumps at the chance to kick plenty of zombie butt. You see, Elizabeth (along with her four siblings) are all trained in a deadly form of Shaolin martial arts, competent with all sorts of guns, swords and Victorian weapons; when they're not courting potential husbands, they're slicing off heads and stabbing zombie brains.
The film doesn't quite hit mark when it comes to mixing the two genres (I'm sure audiences will be clamouring for more zombies than the Austen stuff), but the two contrasting tones blend surprisingly well onscreen. The grim colour palette and alternate history spin make the film feel gruesomely refreshing, whilst the familiar plot and characters keep the wackiness from spiralling too far out of control. It's essentially The Walking Dead meets Downton Abbey and Enter the Dragon - you've got blood, guts, kung-fu, flintlock pistols, cannon balls, corsets, ballroom dances and eye-patch wearing war heroes. Completely bonkers on paper, but somehow it all comes together nicely when projected onto the screen.

It's rarely gruesome in the same way that straight-up zombie films are, but it does contain one or two genuine frights. The action is possibly too restrained and sporadic, and audiences expecting wall-to-wall blood and guts might be a little disappointed. The film does have to follow Austen's original narrative after all and the whole Ms Bennett/Mr Darcy relationship plays out how you would expect.

Riley is no match for James, which makes their chemistry a little strained. It's a very one-sided partnership that would've been better served with a stronger male lead. Douglas Booth is much more charismatic as Mr Bingley, whilst Matt Smith injects some levity to proceedings as Parson Collins. He almost steals the show and milks lines like "Oh, fuddle" for all their worth.

Lena Headey plays the aforementioned eye-patch wearing war hero, but unfortunately her contribution is limited and wasted. The Bennett sisters are all great in their own way, but it's only Bella Heathcote and Ellie Bamber as Jane and Lydia who get chance to truly shine.

The Verdict: 6.5/10

A bit bloody, a bit barmy and even a bit sexy, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies isn't as good as it could have been - but the unpolished final product is still a gleeful guilty pleasure that fans of either genre should find some entertainment in. James is exemplary and Smith has fun - but a stronger Mr Darcy and a saucier central romantic relationship would've gone a long way.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is in cinemas across Australia now


  1. This is one of my favorite movies this year. I just liked seeing all the bad-assery on-screen with Elizabeth, her sisters, etc. and the story was so much fun. Lena could've had a bigger role though - her "fight" with Elizabeth was the most disappointing. Otherwise, I love and hope there's a sequel. Great review!

    1. That's great to hear! The more I think about it, the more I liked this film too. You're right about Lena, she should've played a bigger role. Thanks for commenting Katy!

  2. Full disclosure: I am an Austen fan, and did write about P&P&Z in my Honours thesis, so I probably though about this film more than most would (and then it deserved!).

    I enjoyed myself and laughed throughout, but oddly wanted more blood splatter - how did the Bennet girls stay so clean!

    I actually thought Lizzy was not as great as she could have been: Lily James was great, but the character was made more emotional and less sparkly funny; she wasn't directed as well as she should have been. I also thought Sam Riley was good as Darcy, he had a nice spark in his eye.

    Completely agree about Lena Headley, she was really underused.

    1. That's a good point about the blood splatter, I didn't think of that! Would've been great to get a lot more Lena too, she was kind of wasted.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...