Release date: 11th February 2016/Watch the trailer here
‘It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.’ That is how Seth Grahame-Smith’s cult-classic novel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, begins, and Burr Steers’ big screen adaptation opens with the exact same line.
Before I continue with this review, I must confess that I have not read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, nor have I read (and I’m hanging my head in shame at this confession) Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice – although I’m more or less aware of how the story goes. I should also confess that, despite the current slating that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is receiving from critics, I enjoyed every second of it.
The plot of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is pretty much what the title suggests – it follows the basic formula of the Austen classic, with the addition of undead, brain-hungry zombie hordes. The Bennet sisters – led by Lily James as Elizabeth Bennet – along with most of the women in England, are trained warriors in this iteration of the tale, with a knife tucked into their garters and a shotgun strapped across their backs at all times.
If this sounds preposterously silly, that’s because it is. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is nothing short of ridiculous, but it’s well-aware of this fact. It’s a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously and knows full well that it won’t be winning any awards, but if you sit back and enjoy it for what it is – pure and simple entertainment – then chances are, you’ll have a lot of fun.
Admittedly, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies achieves the ‘pride and prejudice’ a lot better than it achieves the ‘zombies’. There are times during the film where it’s quite easy to lose yourself in the beautiful Regency costumes and architecture, and the acting – from both new and established British talent – is admirable, too: Lily James, Sam Riley, Bella Heathcote and Douglas Booth give impressive turns as Elizabeth Bennet, Mr Darcy, Jane Bennet and Mr Bingley respectively, whilst Lena Headey is Cersei Lannister-esque as the seasoned zombie killer, Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
Still, a zombie apocalypse twist keeps the story fresh while bringing the zombie trope to Regency England. Undead aficionados beware: The Walking Dead this is not – these zombies don’t just run, they can talk too.
However, it’s the times when Pride and Prejudice and Zombies successfully blends both the classic Austen romance and its kick-ass, zombie-slaughtering alternate universe – rather than keeping them as two separate entities – that the film is at its best. A scene in which Elizabeth and Mr Darcy speak their classic lines from the original novel whilst their swords are swinging, punches are flying and buttons are popping off left, right and centre is the perfect crossover, and it’s a shame that the film couldn’t succeed in maintaining this tone throughout its entirety.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was never going to be a great film, but there was a chance it would be entertaining – and it is. The problem is, it’s a film that doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. It’s never consistently funny enough to be a comedy – most of the laughs stemming from Matt Smith’s bumbling Parson Collins – yet it’s never scary enough to be classed as a horror, either. I’ll settle for a classic period romance with a smattering of zombies and a multitude of kick-ass heroines, which sounds pretty good to me.