There is no shortage of adaptations of Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice, from the original 1940 film to the seminal BBC mini-series by way of Bridget Jones’s Diary, the classic love story remains Austen’s most adapted work to date. Back in 2009, Seth Grahame-Smith released the book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the addition of two extra words promised a mixture of high-class manners with gore-soaked horror. On the page, the high-concept worked as a fun summer holiday read, but does the movie version live up to expectations?
Writer/director Burr Steers (Igby Goes Down) keeps things straightforward, this version of 19th century England is more or less what you’d expect, there’s a war on, The Bennet Sisters are getting steadily married off and the country in infested with zombies. Handily explained in an opening animated segment explains the origins of the undead, but as it’s 19th century England everybody mostly goes about their business.
The undead has become part of everyday life, so much so that it has become standard practice for parents to send their daughters off to China to train in the deadly arts. Elizabeth Bennet (Lilly James) is famed for her charm, wit, and strong will, but her lackluster love life suddenly gets more complicated with the interest of two possible suitors. However, before any romantic encounters transpire, they’ll have to fend off hordes of the undead and prevent the zombie apocalypse.
At times Steers’ script gets a bit too distracted by wanting to faithfully tell Austin’s well-known love story, the trouble is the audience are more interested in the And Zombies bit and our rotting foes are off screen for huge chunks of the movie. That said when the action comes it’s well stage and often darkly funny, even if zombie purists might not fully get behind the idea talking zombies.
Genre mash-ups are always an intriguing mix; occasionally we get something as strong as From Dusk Till Dawn that fuses genres effortlessly with entertaining results. Regrettably, movies like Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter (another offering from Seth Grahame-Smith) are the usual benchmark that don’t deliver on its promising title. Despite a poor performance at the box office, Pride and Prejudice is thankfully a much better movie and never takes itself too seriously.
While not quite romantic enough to appeal to fan’s of Austin’s book and not gory enough to quench the thirst of horror fans, but it somehow manages to be a whole heap of fun. Aided by a game cast that includes Jack Huston, Charles Dance, and Lena Headey. I have to give a special shout-out to former Doctor Who star Matt Smith, who plays the befuddled Collins with eccentric levels of befuddlement. He might have been underused in last year’s Terminator reboot, but he’s given a plum supporting role here and most of the best lines.
I’m not sure that the hardcore Austin fans will be too impressed, but it’s an entertaining mash-up that flirts dangerously close to being a future cult classic.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is on on DVD & Blu-ray on June 27.