When Seth Grahame-Smith opted to add an undead twist to Jane Austen’s classic ‘Pride and Prejudice’, the results were a mixed bag. It was an interesting idea but Grahame-Smith’s far-less polished prose were ultimately only a minor additive; many described the book as “85% Austen, 15% zombies”. Still, with the zombie craze still relevant (thank you The Walking Dead!) it only seemed a natural progression that ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ would get the cinematic treatment.
Despite its MA15+ rating (indicating strong enough violence to limit its audience) the film is surprisingly light on its carnage. There are a few choice moments but the film devotes more of its time to Austen’s classic heroine Elizabeth Bennett (Lily James) and her courtship with the stubborn Mr Darcy (Sam Riley). Some of Austen’s signature dialogue has been lifted verbatim, and you have to hand it to all involved for managing to make it all work amongst the ridiculousness that is the overall premise. Reimagined as a trained killer of the undead from her infancy, Bennett is just as strong a female protagonist as she was through the description of Austen; she just now has a Buffy Summers-level of agility.
The opening credits set the pace for what type of film you’re in for. This is a highly tongue-in-cheek affair that has embraced its bizarre premise and run with it – they just didn’t run far enough. We’ve seen better adaptations of Austen’s work, and zombie fans will likely be disappointed at its lack of gore (there is a neat beheading as seen from the zombie’s point of view though), so the film awkwardly sits in-between as it fleshes out its own identity.
The film is often humorous, and the casting is impressive (Doctor Who actor Matt Smith steals the film with his captivatingly amusing performance as a would-be suitor for Elizabeth) and, given the meddling of such opposing genres, director Burr Steers (17 Again) has performed admirably. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies isn’t the next great cinematic hybrid, nor is it quirky enough to garner cult status; it’s an enjoyable enough period action/comedy that’s in on its own joke and manages to execute its punchline.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (MA15+) is in cinemas now.