When I first heard of a movie titled Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I thought it was the dumbest sounding thing in the world. I have heard of the book by Seth Grahame-Smith but I always thought it was just a throwaway cash grab to try and capitalize on the success of the zombie genre. The first trailer for the film peaked my interest ever so slightly but didn’t blow me away. So when I was lucky enough to receive advance screening passes for the film, I had enough interest to give it a shot.
This film was such a huge surprise for me. Everybody who is anybody knows the classic Jane Austin tale about Mr. Darcy and Miss. Bennet and this movie IS that story, BUT WITH ZOMBIES (as the title so straightforwardly acknowledges). The story follows Miss. Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) who, with her sisters, has been trained in the ways of combat to fight off the living dead. While the zombie apocalypse is starting to fume, the sisters are still trying to find a nice man and get married. While Lizzy is a warrior who does not find the need to rely on a man, the minute she firsts sees Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley), well… you know the rest.
The very first scene of the film sets the tone perfectly while also introducing the famous characters to a new audience. Darcy enters a secluded castle that is very clearly designed to keep zombies out and claims that he has heard rumors that somebody in the estate may have been bitten. After a brief investigation and a cool little trick, Darcy brutally stabs somebody in the face and continuously slams their skull until they are no more. The scene gives the right amount of exposition to get the viewer all up to speed on the established rules of the film.
Unlike films like Dawn of the Dead, the word Zombie is not scoffed at or hidden from the audience. Instead, we begin our adventure in a world where zombies have happened and everybody knows and accepts it and it is really quite unique in that sense. While no definitive reason is given for their existence, like in most pop culture, the type of zombie they create is something very new. Even if you are bitten, you do not transform into a mindless beast until you have eaten a human yourself. The zombies cure their appetite for humans by eating pigs or other beasts.
What you may not know by the marketing of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is that it is a hysterical little romp using the backdrop of an English classic and adding in some genre flare. Some of the funniest scenes are way it almost parodies the original story in so many ways. For example, Mr. Collins was always a very energetic fellow but Matt Smith takes this to a whole other level and is one of the films better parts. Other humor just comes from the unusual situations that the characters are put through and how they all basically graze it off like it is a regular occurrence.
Lily James continues her rise to stardom with another magnificent performance. She is a convincing bad-ass warrior while also pulling off the beauty of a Bennet. I love the role reversal where virtually all of the female characters are complete bad-asses and the men, with the exception of Sam Riley’s Mr. Darcy, are less fit with a blade. There is a slow motion walk of Lizzy and her sisters walking at the camera and killing every zombie in their way and it was just spectacular.
The practical effects used on the zombies was much more scary and created more than one jump scare in the film. While it isn’t really a horror movie, there are certainly some moments where you could have fooled me. It is also worth noting that the action was shot very well by director Burr Steers and really supported the tone that the film creates. The over-the-top campiness of the movie is the perfect tone for a movie with a title as ridiculous as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
It is always great when a movie knows and embraces what it is and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies does it to the best of its ability. Acted wonderfully by its large cast, the film works whether you are familiar with Austin’s classic or not. It is absolutely ridiculous and over-the-top but I can guarantee that you will leave with a goofy smile on your face.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies hits theaters on February 5, 2016.