Pride and Prejudice and Zombies [2016] is director Burr Steers’ most recent film based on the Seth Graham-Greene’s zombie adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. This project is a long time coming as talks of a film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies were reported as early as 2009. As a couple of directors have cycled in and out of the project and Natalie Portman has transitioned from her initial intentions of playing the lead role to a producing role—in 2016, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, The Movie, comes to us with Lily James as the hardheaded Elizabeth Bennet to Sam Riley’s Mr. Darcy. Other stars such as Lena Headey, Charles Dance, Matt Smith and Jack Huston shine in supporting roles. 

When England Met America… Pride and Prejudice and Zombies will be a relatively fun romp for those who find themselves squarely in the middle of the Venn diagram comprised of those who appreciate Pride and Prejudice and those who enjoy zombie fiction. This is not a poignant adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and it’s not a wildly gratifying zombie story; but what it is is a guiltily pleasurable melding of the two genres which is, I know, an itch that we were all dying to have scratched. Yet, for an itch that I didn’t know needed to be scratched, there is something uniquely satisfying about watching the Bennet sisters competently kick ass. In considering this film though, perhaps the first question that pops into the mind is, Why does this film exist? The answer—at least, my answer—is a resounding, why not? It exists because we can. This is, after all, a world where not only can Donald Trump run for POTUS, but he actually has serious supporters. The nightmarish end is nigh, no? But in all seriousness, perhaps, to brush this story off as it is because we can is too simplistic a line of thought. Perhaps there is something primordial about the Victorian era where the basic tenets of the horror genre applies: both deal with hard times (for the poor and middling British citizens) and both are chiefly concerned with survival. If outlandish at first, upon closer inspection, the class struggles of Victorian life might not be so discordant with the elements of a zombie story. Do not be fooled. This Frankenmovie is a monster; but, even amongst the ranks of monsters, there are despicable ones (e.g. Freddy Krueger) and there are loveable ones (e.g. Totoro) and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies leans on the more loveable side.

Crackpot Comic Relief… One of the more enjoyable aspects of this film lies in the work done by the supporting actors. Perhaps my personal favourite is Matt Smith’s Mr. Collins. Take heed: if you’re used to seeing Matt Smith as a bow-tie-wearing, custard-and-fish-sticks-eating, fez-supporting time traveller, this is not that. Smith really sinks his teeth into the role of Mr. Collins and expertly taps into this character’s inherent weasel-like and overtly smarmy characteristics. In fact, if Steers and company did anything well, it’s that they cast this film excellently.

Dear, There’s A Little Bit Of Zombie On Your Dress… Steers’ screenplay for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies offers a minor spin on the prototypical zombie story. These are neither the super speedy zombies of 28 Days Later [2002] nor are they the languid marauders like that of Night of the Living Dead [1968], and they certainly aren’t the kind of undead that present as the spatial anomalies a la Walking Dead style. In fact, there’s a nice logic to these zombies where the degree to which they are undead is pitched as the progression of a disease. Mental faculties don’t seem to operate on a binary switch. The gruesome result is that you can find yourself still having thoughts and producing sentences, but your face could very well be rotting off. This film gives enough lip service and homage to the various stories and genres that it’s referencing. In service of zombie fans, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies offers up a healthy dose of the undead. There is beauty in the macabre; and, the Art and Effects departments on this film manage to successfully hone in on that. The use of practical effects grounds the picture and instils some reality back into the film’s surreality. In service of Jane Austen fans, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies hits all the major plot points of this classic Austen tale. Though, if Colin Firth is forever your Mr. Darcy, this adaptation’s Mr. Darcy swimming scene will disappoint: for one it isn’t Colin Firth (I know, unfair); and, for two, it feels like a poor imitation of the famed scene from the BBC mini-series.

Zombies Threat: Defcon 5 (aka Party On)… Yet, for those not quite on board with the conceit of this film, the clunkier and more hackneyed scenes and screenwriting devices will invite some eye-rolls. Consider this: how is it that these British dandies can so competently dispense themselves of these hoards of zombies? The answer is clearly martial arts training from the Japanese—if you’re fancy like Darcys and the Bingleys—or the Chinese—if your social class is only middling like that of the Bennets. Firstly, how dare you; I (half-heartedly) take offence to the implication. And secondly, this is yet another movie that misappropriates Asian cultures. This is a movie that asks its protagonist—who is whiter than the Queen eating scones served atop Weird Al’s naked, quivering body—to speak Mandarin as though she were a native speaker. And I’m sure Lily James tried her darnedest. As I’m sure Robert de Niro tried his darnedest in The Intern [2015] or Vincent D’Onofrio in the Netflix original series Daredevil. But try as you may, the illusion is immediately shattered for anyone with the smallest bit of insight into the language. And it’s such cheap shorthand that when done poorly, it’s all the more disagreeable. Another problem with this film lies in the ease with which all our main characters dispense with the threats that do come their way. It makes it seem as though there's no threat at all and that translates to a general lack of stakes, and nothing else—save for maybe a vampire slayer—needs stakes more than a horror movie (comedy or none).

Analogous to a set of novelty zombie themed Pride and Prejudice cliff notes.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
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