Several years ago, author Seth Grahame-Smith had a brilliant idea to take the classic Jane Austin novel, Pride and Prejudice and add zombies to it. The resulting book, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was literally the Jane Austin novel with a words changed here and there and occasional full paragraphs added so as to have zombies in the classic piece of literature. This book was so well received that it was number three on the New York Times bestseller list for a while, sold out on Amazon.co.uk's website and required a second printing, and was even on Oprah's Book Club at one point. With a book resume like that, a movie was inevitable. As a movie Pride and Prejudice and Zombies wasn't exactly good, but it was fun and one of the more enjoyable film adaptations of a Jane Austin book I've ever seen.
A zombie outbreak has fallen upon the land in Jane Austen's classic tale of the tangled relationships between lovers from different social classes in 19th century England. The five Bennet sisters must cope with the pressures to marry while protecting themselves from a growing population of zombies. Feisty Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) is a master of martial arts and weaponry and the handsome Mr. Darcy (Sam Reilly) is a fierce zombie killer, yet the epitome of upper class prejudice. When zombie outbreaks begin happening within the supposedly safe walls of mansions during social gatherings, the two characters begin to suspect that there is someone helping the zombies get in. As the zombie outbreak intensifies, they must swallow their pride and join forces on the blood-soaked battlefield.
I have tried to read Jane Austin a couple of times and have found her writing to be lyrical with certain poetry to it, albeit very dry and verbose to the point that it's positively arduous to read. I figured with the addition of zombies the classic novel would be easier to read, especially with opening lines like, "It is a fact universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains." Alas, what little of the book I made it through was still so "Austiny" I just couldn't get into it. It is literally the Jane Austin classic with small bits and pieces changed or added here and there. It feels very much like a Jane Austin novel.
For the movie, it still feels a lot like a Jane Austin-inspired movie, but with zombies in it. There is articulate dialogue, beautiful sets, lovely costumes, gossip about marriage, and melodramatic spectacles. There are also zombies to stir things up every now and again. This is still mostly the same story but with a lot garnish added that generates an appeal to 14 year old boys; zombies, fight scenes, and explosions. One of my favorite parts of the original Austin story is when Mr. Darcy proposes marriage to Elizabeth; she rejects him with the most elegant, eloquent, and ladylike verbal slap in the face. That same exchange is present in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but in this version Elizabeth is so offended and enraged by the audacity of Darcy's proposal, that the two get into a pretty fantastic duel using all their fighting skills while using the same eloquent dialogue during the fight scene. I daresay having Elizabeth fight while rejecting the marriage proposal cheapens the words used, but it sure is a whole lot of fun to watch! That pretty well sums up the movie; the addition of zombies and fight scenes is a whole lot of fun, but cheapens their original context making it rather ridiculous.
At one point, The Bennet Family is visited by Mr. Collins who is played by
The Doctor Matt
Smith. As an avid Doctor Who fan, it's weird to see Matt Smith outside of his
role as The Doctor. Mr. Collins intends to marry one of the Bennet sisters, but
is disliked across the board. Mr. Collins provides a lot of the comic relief,
something that Matt Smith is pretty good at. It's still the kind of humor one
might find in a Jane Austin novel; obliviousness to protocol, social awkwardness,
and the fact that the Bennet sisters frequently try to politely get as far away
from him as possible. Comedy isn't the point of this movie, but it's a much
needed addition which keeps the ridiculous premise from taking itself too
The zombie mayhem was delightful. Rotting corpses in 19th century period costumes shambling around attacking aristocrats is a tantalizing treat for zombie enthusiasts. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a nice PG-13 romp and the violence stays within those boundaries. Decomposing reanimated corpses do tend to be on the grotesque side as a matter of principle, so we do see minor bits of blood and gore every now and again and plenty of very ugly zombies. Thankfully the truly gruesome zombie slaying stays off screen. Sure, that kind of thing is fun every now and again, but I don't personally care for visually explicit violence. There were a few times I thought the movie was pushing what it could get away with in terms of violent action, but it still stays within PG-13 quality material. Maybe not something I'd take anyone younger than a teenager to see.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies wasn't a particularly good movie, but it was fun. It manages to wring a few fun moments out of its premise, but never quite delivers the thoroughly kooky mash up the title suggests. It's an over-the-top combination of the beloved 19th century novel and the unquenchable and inexplicable modern demand for all things to be zombie-fied, resulting in bizarrely daft movie which had a few moments of real invention and undeniable wit. Much like Austin's Mr. Collins character, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is absurd, self-important, and not nearly as clever or elegant as it thinks it is. It's still pretty fun nonetheless. It remains affectionately faithful to the original characters and structure, there are just zombies thrown into the mix. I think this is worth one viewing, it's ultimately a forgettable movie experience, but it's a fun movie experience while it lasts. I'm glad I saw it; it's just not something I'd go out of my way to see again. I'd wait for it on home video if you plan to see it at all.
I'd love to see a mash up of more classic literature and outlandish monster mayhem. Something like Lord of the Flies and Body Snatchers or something like that. What are other weird combinations that might be fun to see? Comment below and let me know!