I did not see the original Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightly back in 2005. Mainly because I was not interested in seeing it. Nor have I read the Jane Austin book, because I was not interested in seeing it. Now, throw in a few zombies and I’m in. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a mash-up between 19th-century romance and the Night of the Living Dead.
Release Date: February 5, 2016
Writer: Burr Steers
Director: Burr Steers
Cast: Lily James, Sam Riley, Jack Huston, Charles Dance, Lena Headley, Matt Smith
If you’re familiar with Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice, you know it is about the Bennet family. The aging patriarch, Mr. Bennet (Charles Dance) cannot pass his estate on to any of his five his unmarried daughters unless wed. The story becomes the interweaving tale of manners and matrimony of the Bennet sisters.
Jane Bennet (Bella Heathcote) is in love with Mr. Bingley (Douglas Booth), but they cannot marry because Bingley’s childhood friend, Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley) does not get along with the Bennet’s eldest daughter, Elizabeth (Lily James). Elizabeth manages to strike Darcy in all the wrong way because she is a strong woman. Darcy in return cannot stand her presence because she does not act like a proper woman. Elizabeth soon begins to fall for Darcy’s estranged adopted brother, Mr. Wickham (Jack Huston). But Elizabeth has also been promised to her cousin, Parson Collins (Matt Smith).
Oh, let us not forget the zombies. A plague has flooded all of England, turning its people into the living-dead, hungry only for the brains of humans. On the edge, Mr. Bennet trained his daughters to not only defend themselves when confronted by a horde of zombies but to attack and permanently kill one without flinching.
The movie begins at a Bridge party. The local constable, Mr. Darcy has arrived because he believes one of the guests is infected with the zombie plagues. Using flies which are attracted to dead flesh, Darcy discovers and dispatches the head of the undead guest.
My one complaint is that the rules of zombies are always rewritten from film-to-film to accommodate the larger story. It tends to weaken, in small ways, the ferociousness of zombies altogether. But then again, you have to tell a story. In this film, infected humans are dead, but their full conversion to brain eaters happen over time. As the flesh decays and wounds go unhealed, they can still act like people, which is often used as a trap to ensure the healthy ones. Eventually, the human mind will ultimately die, and the person becomes mindless brain eaters.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies succeeds because it introduced me to the fascinating world of Jane Austin. The film manages to tell a true Austin story while at the same time mix a horror element. The movie stays true to Austin-era England while weaving in not only the existence of zombies but also the imminent zombie threat.
What makes the movie work is it takes itself seriously. There are comic moments that help ease the tension. At no time do the actors wink at the camera to make sure in on the joke. The actors take their roles seriously and ultimately makes the absurd tale worth watching.
Lily James is memorizing as Elizabeth Bennet. She is beautiful and deadly. She is a woman who stands her ground and not allowing any man change it; not her father and certainly not Mr. Darcy. Sam Riley is equally likable and unlikable as Mr. Darcy and his unflinching view of the world around him. Matt Smith shines as the comedic Parson Collins, in search of a wife that he can rule over and a wife that can protect him from the undead.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a fun, action-filled movie for people who do not know the world of Jane Austin. I have a feeling the Austonians may find the film distasteful, possible because they are against tampering with the source material.