Release Date: February 5th, 2016
Director: Burr Steers
Release Format: Theatrical
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a film that clearly understands how exceptionally silly of a concept it is. Unlike its other monster infested, historical counterpart Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter; Pride and Prejudice and Zombies doesn’t just levy everything on an entire gag. There are noticeable bite marks in this Jane Austen nightmare, but the experience is more enjoyable than one might assume.
Taking place in roughly the same universe as the 1813 novel, a virus has devastated the majority of the United Kingdom leaving only small pockets of survivors scattered around London. The characters and their motives are roughly the same, with some additional tweaks to reflect the world around them, yet the zombies themselves do not feel shoehorned into the plot. Characters such as Lady Cathrine de Bourgh (Lena Heady) is still an incredibly strong, threatening woman with a very bourgeoisie lifestyle, however, her respect comes from being the best zombie killer in the country. It’s all very tongue and cheek in the best way, with the actors whole heartily committing to their roles in an incredibly serious manner. The cast’s willingness to be game for everything sells both the humor and character’s motives. Sadly, the emotional moments do not hit home, as the silliness of it all robs any real investment one might have in the characters.
With that being said, all of the performances are done competently and fairly convincingly. They don’t just play parodies of the original characters but act as if they were those classic versions. No one feels out of place in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, with the lead Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) doing an admirable job carrying the plot. Elizabeth and her sisters are not only faithful to the source material but embody a lot of the femme fatale motifs from the 70s-80s. They’re smart and exceptionally competent in combat; a trait now desirable in all women. That being said, only really two of the five women get any noticeable screen time as the others are pretty much sidelined to looking cool in fight scenes.
On the men’s side, Sam Riley does a fine job as the cold and stoic Mr. Darcy. His chemistry with Lily James, on the other hand, is pretty horrific, no pun intended. Now I understand that Mr. Darcy needs to be distant from Elizabeth to a degree, but when they actually do fall in love it’s so unconvincing it made my eyes roll. It doesn’t raise the stakes near the third act and at no point did I ever believe Darcy’s emotional turmoil. Yet it’s Matt Smith’s Parson Collins who utterly steals the show. The absent-minded relative of Elizabeth adds much-needed levity to the story, offering a breath of fresh air in a movie that could easily fall flat on its face. Most of the other male cast members are forgettable in both form and function, with the human antagonist George Wickham (Boardwalk Empire’s Jack Huston) acting a bit too cartoonishly evil. Normally in a film such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies this would be a good thing, but given the rest of the cast’s commitment to the classic novel, he sticks out like a sore thumb.
Yet, this all falls apart if the actual zombies in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies aren’t any good. Thankfully, director Burr Steers wisely chooses to develop a unique take on the undead. Instead of them simply falling into mindless, shambling corpses, (Which, there are still a lot of!) Burr adds a sense of hierarchy to them. See, in this world the ghouls are not fully transformed until they consume a human’s brains; until then the creatures retain cognitive abilities. This makes certain scenes far more interesting as the rotting dead can not only move in plain sight but speak as well. It’s a smart take that Steers takes full advantage of during the course of the plot. The special effects are also impressive, with a fair amount of the ghouls done practically over just sticking a bunch of CGI monsters on screen. It’s clear early on that despite a PG-13 rating, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is not afraid to be brutal when needed. The film also attempts to shoehorn The Four Horseman into the mix, claiming they would rise for the end of humanity. While their victorian design and creepy masks did offer a striking silhouette, ultimately they served no purpose to the plot or any character.
The film also attempts to shoehorn The Four Horseman into the mix, claiming they would rise for the end of humanity. While their victorian design and creepy masks did offer a striking silhouette, ultimately they served no purpose to the plot or any character. Hell, they could have been replaced with really any sign of death and been just as effective at standing around looking menacing.
That being all said, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was a fun, bloody good time that I recommend to anyone looking for a decent action film. While it won’t be winning any awards or be remembered through cinema history, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies embraces the extreme, zany concept of the setting. If you can look past some of the flaws and character issues, this is a solid film in what seems to be a future franchise…Yay?
- Acting: Lily James and Sam Riley do commendable jobs in the leading roles, despite the stars lack of on-screen chemistry. With a competent job done b the supporting cast, the acting is stronger than one might expect when the title sounds like a cheap Wayans brothers movie. However, it’s Matt Smith who proves to be both having the most fun, offering some of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies best moments.
- Cinematography: Director Burr Steers plays it safe with his use of lighting, design, and camera movements giving a pleasant, yet predictable experience. Thankfully he doesn’t flood the action with shaky camera movements, instead, all of the combat is easily followed and understood.
- Story: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies may surprise audiences with how dedicated it stays to the classic story, yet the addition of zombies only raises the stakes for everyone involved. They never feel forced into the plot and Steers does a good job of explaining the motives, desires, and flaws of each character within this macabre world.
- Characters: All of your favorite Jane Austen characters are here just ya know, with zombies. With only two of the sisters actually having prominent roles it seems as if a fair amount of them are completely sidelined for the entirety of the story. Some of the male characters like Mr. Darcy do get enough developments, others who seem as if they were supposed to have bigger roles never really flourish.
- Matt Smith's Performance
- Fantastic Use Of Source Material
- Unique Zombies
- Poor Lead Chemistry
- Supporting Cast Undeveloped
- Why Are The Four Horsemen Even In This?