Pride + Prejudice + Zombies (15)
Directed by: Burr Steers
Starring: Lily James, Sam Riley, Bella Heathecote, Charles Dance, Jack Huston, Matt Smith, Lena Headey, Ellie Bamber & Millie Brady
Running Time: 108 mins
Genre crossovers are now all the rage, the last one to see a cinematic release being director Jon Favreau’s Cowboys vs Aliens which shoehorned in invading aliens to the western genre. That movie was met with less than stellar criticism from audiences, even if it did manage to get Harrison Ford out of a slump.
So now, we have an even weirder mash up, with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, based on the graphic novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, which is basically Jane Austen’s story following Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) and her four sisters, set in 1800s England, searching for love… and battling the brain eating undead. Having been sent to China to train by their father Mr Bennet (Charles Dance), the girls are all highly skilled at dispatching the walking dead, as are other characters from the literary tale, in particular George Wickham (Jack Huston) and Colonel Darcy (Sam Riley).
Right from the opening monologue, the movie makes no attempts to hide that it’s a zombie movie – “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.”
Often when there is a mash up of two genres, there’s a divide between the two, like a switch is flicked – an example of this is Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn, if you knew nothing about it, as far as you know you’re watching a thriller about a pair of Kray wannabes right up until Salma Hayek turns full on vamp and starts chewing on Tarantino’s carotid artery. But here there’s been a genuine attempt to fully merge both sources. Fences and walls are covered in spikes, and elaborate devices that would no doubt despatch a zombie in seconds.
Locations, props and costumes too have that faithful look to that time period, though have been adapted to suit the zombie genre, the women carrying bladed weapons and flintlock pistols in harnesses under their evening dresses being one example. Also, this is not merely a world where a sole hero hunts and despatches the walking dead to keep everyone else unawares, this is a world well and truly aware of zombies, with the threat already established and a part of what has become everyday normal life.
The interactions of the main characters are also affected by this. Instead of Elizabeth and her sisters merely being young women to be married off, these are young women who have been trained in the art of combat, which brings with it more confidence in other aspects of their lives. The character of Colonel Darcy is also made harder for this changed world that he has had to adapt to, having to deal with killing an infected person because they are a danger to those around them has made him a brash and grim person, and these effected changes are present throughout, with a scene that would have been all dialogue before, showing a more confident Elizabeth in a heated scuffle with Colonel Darcy.
Director and screenwriter Burr Steers has taken Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel and created a fleshed out world on screen, which fully incorporates elements from both genres into a single solid entity. The changes to the characters could have broken what originally made them interesting, but instead it strengthens them and like them, strengthens the movie itself.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies shouldn’t work, but it does, and its surreal mix of period drama and graphic action makes it a unique fun surprise.
3 out of 5 Nerds