Director: Burr Steers
Run Time: 1h 47m
From Austen to Zombies. Too much Austen. Not enough Zombies.
In this re-telling of Jane Austen’s most famous novel, The Bennett sisters have traded in their hobby of sitting around and talking for sword-fighting around and talking. England has suffered a zombie apocalypse as a result of the Black Plague. The city now has a 100-ft chasm surrounding it, with a single bridge leading to the wasteland. In between London and said wasteland is an area known as…the In-Between. (This is where the fair maidens of the Bennet family live.) The ladies of 19th century England now have to worry about fighting off gossip of spinster-ism while also fighting off the undead. The Bennett sisters in particular have been trained in the art of sword-fighting and practice often–while simultaneously having Austen-like conversations. Elizabeth (Lily James) is of course the most skilled fighter as she is the sister least likely to find a match when it comes to love. That is until she meets Colonel Darcy (Sam Riley). He’s cynical and combat-ready like Elizabeth though they are both too proud to act on any affection. However they will need one another in a battle that could either destroy London or save it.
While watching Pride and Prejudice and Zombies I struggled back and forth with my feelings towards it.
This is kinda cool.
No, nevermind this is dumb.
Perhaps it has redeeming qualities…
Oh no they didn’t!
After such a tiresome thought process I arrived at the definitive conclusion that this film is in fact a hot mess. It wanted so badly to rise above mediocrity but alas plummeted into the 100-ft moat surrounding London. The consequence is to forever remain at the bottom of the abyss with the undead. Where it should be.
The largest and most tiresome flaw was confining itself to world of Austen. Every bit that tied back to the classic tale was forced and unnecessary. Why strap yourself to the restraints of Pride & Prejudice if it was so uncomfortable to do so? I understand there is a novel (by Seth Grahame-Smith) that hatched this evil plan and while it might be amazing–I wouldn’t know–it certainly didn’t translate well to screen. A zombie outbreak in 1800’s England could’ve been well-managed without the cutesy nod to Miss Austen. The character names and circumstances were inconsequential to the story. Having Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy be the main characters added nothing. Had the film not been so confined to the book perhaps it could’ve been better. Great concept. Poor execution.
The 19th century zombies were the only appreciated aspect of this mashup. Apparently if you were a zombie back then, you’d maintain some level of poise and aristocracy. So you’d invite your victims to tea before devouring their brains like biscuits. It played more into the comedy side of things and it worked. Never quite made me laugh but the idea was intriguing to say the least.
Speaking of comedy, this film attempted to classify itself as comedy horror. So…where was the comedy? I laughed a grand total of three times (I kept count) and all three occasions involved the adorably detestable Mr. Collins (Matt Smith). That’s incredibly unsatisfying to have only a single character provide all of the humor. I understand the need for the plucky comic relief, but other characters should have the opportunity to demand a few laughs…or any at all.
I have neither qualms nor praise for the acting. I adore Lily James, and Matt Smith was by far my favorite. Everyone else was just kind of there. Nothing was particularly distracting but they certainly didn’t shine either. The only thing that was off=putting had more to do with weapons wielding than acting. Allegedly the Bennet sisters are skillfully trained in the art of zombie slaying. However only Lily James looked at ease with a weapon in her hands. Granted Elizabeth was supposed to be the most skilled, but that doesn’t mean much when her sisters are severely lacking.
By camping out in the realm of safe and average, this film failed for me. It either needed to take itself a lot more seriously and give the audience an incredible zombie experience, or throw caution to the wind and be gloriously ridiculous that we have no choice but to love it. I cannot recommend this film, but if you’re super bored one night it might make an okay Netflix viewing in a few months.
Something similar, though still not great, would be Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Inspired by Grahame-Smith’s ingenious idea to meld the classic with the horrific, it’s not actually a very good movie. But it is another in the same genre of historical horror mashups.