Five sisters in 19th century England must cope with the pressures to marry while protecting themselves from a growing population of zombies.
Title :Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)
Release : 30 September 2016
Genre :Action, Horror, Romance
Writers: Burr Steers
Stars : Lily James, Sam Riley, Jack Huston
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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016) trailer
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016) review
Amid the gory bloodshed, the sudden, unexpected frenzied bursts of violence and the impending threat of the apocalypse, ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ dares to ask a critically important question. Can the social order and class system survive a zombie outbreak? Silly as that may sound, the makers of this adaptation of the book by Seth Grahame-Smith — which itself is a reimagining of Jane Austen’s classic novel of manners — don’t shy away from this theme. In fact, characters openly and even brazenly talk about it. This is particularly true in the ridiculously polite tit-for-tat squabbles of our two main heroes and eventual sweethearts, Colonel Darcy (an intentionally stiff and arrogantly snobbish Sam Riley) and Elizabeth Bennet (a very meek and humble Lily James). At a dinner party, he boldly proclaims a woman is more attractive when mastering the feminine arts rather than combat skills, and Elizabeth answers soon after with her knowledge of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. The two go back and forth for a good chunk of the runtime until words are exchanged for fists, the tension suddenly erupting into a hand-to-hand conflict about halfway through the movie where they discover to be equals.
As entertaining as that fight sequence is on its own — a dazzling choreography that would feel as comfortable and natural in, say, a Jason Bourne film — the brawl is accentuated by a very dry sense of humor. With tongue firmly pressed against the cheek, the pair sling words and insults as swiftly as they swing punches and kicks, a verbal contest of wit matched only by the speed of each blow. They reveal as much about their feelings towards each other as they do their ability to handle themselves against the zombie horde. And the whole thing is intended for laughs, a series of deadpan performances that metaphorically speak to Austen’s novel and the stifling pressure of cultural norms undermining a character’s ability to express themselves. It’s made all the more apparent when Matt Smith shows up as the overtly prim and proper Parson Collins, a minister with intentions of marrying Elizabeth. Or any of the other sisters, for that matter. Admittedly, Smith also runs the risk of ruining much of the film’s straight-faced comedy in a couple spots, but then again, his presence reminds viewers to not take anything too serious or at face value.
Director Burr Steers, who also wrote the script, does excellent with the laconic language of early 19th Century aristocracy. Although the conversations appear authentic and quite romanticized, there is still something humorously ridiculous and exaggeratingly formal about the way each interacts with the other. Whether it’s with the Bennet sisters sparring or Lady Catherine de Bourgh (Lena Headey), Darcy’s aunt, discussing Elizabeth’s intentions with her already betrothed nephew, there is a subversive snideness lurking beneath the seemingly cultured and refined tête-à-tête. When the charming and exceedingly polite Wickham (Jack Huston) makes his appearance, the character ironically speaks with a more straightforward and blunt demeanor. But this is part of his character trait, for him to more easily prowl the social circles of the upper class undetected or be more readily accepted, winning Elizabeth’s trust without much effort. His real purpose is part of a larger reveal that will not be ruined here, but it’s another great bit of comedy that remains true to Austen’s original design while still feeling fresh and new.
For many, ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ will be a muddling mashup of classic literature and today’s current undead craze that misses its mark and fails to satisfy, as can be seen by box-office returns and critical responses. And to some extent, those viewers make a point because admittedly, some jokes don’t really have much of a bite and others are not quite as infectious. However, for those who can appreciate the mix of dry wit with stylized action and gore will be pleasantly surprised with this concoction of straight-faced absurdity. Honestly, I rather admire the filmmakers’ approach to the source with deadpan humor. In a time, when many over-the-top comedies are self-referential as part of the gag, which is not a wholly bad thing, it’s somewhat refreshing to have a production fully embrace the material for what it is and ride unabashedly towards the zombie apocalypse at full throttle. Like the scene when Darcy and Mr. Bingley (Douglas Booth) first witness the Bennet sisters confidently vanquish a swarm of the walking dead crashing a formal ball, you will stand in puzzled awe at the well-mannered carnage, but give the young ladies some time to charm their way into your heart.