Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)
Yes, you read that title right! Have you ever seen any adaptations of Jane Austen’s novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’, or read the book? If the answer is ‘Yes’, then you will know the classic story of the Bennet family, and the people they encounter in the Regency England of 1813. If you are an Austen ‘purist’, then it might be best to read no further…
When I saw this film was being released, I immediately discounted it as ‘probably nonsense’, and thought no more of it. I also read that it had failed at the box office, and lost millions in the process. But despite all that, there were also many positive reviews, some from people I respected. So when it finally arrived on TV, courtesy of Film 4, I thought, ‘why not?’
I confess to being pleasantly surprised, and rewarded with some excellent performances too. In this ‘alternative England’, the country is beset by a plague of zombies. With London full of flesh-eating monsters, the authorities have surrounded the capital with a huge wall, and a deep water moat to contain the hordes. Occasionally, some escape, infecting people in the countryside. When the crisis reaches its peak, the Army has to blow up the last remaining bridge over the moat, trapping the remaining zombies in London forever.
All the characters from the book are in evidence, with a couple of new additions, to deal with the zombie angle. But the famous Bennet sisters and the young ladies of their acquaintance are no longer the giggling girls who could sometimes be so annoying. They are now trained zombie fighters, sent by their parents to develop their skills in China or Japan. They are proficient with pistol, musket, and sword, also concealing razor sharp daggers in their stocking tops, or in the bodices that barely restrain their heaving Regency bosoms. They can also demonstrate kick-boxing, kung-fu, and any martial art you care to name.
Dastardly Whickham and soppy Reverend Collins, brave yet aloof Darcy, and the loyal Mr Bingham. They are all there, and playing the same part in the story. Except that Darcy is now the chief zombie killer in England, and in command of the Army unit tasked with destroying the menace. Mrs Bennet is trying to marry off her daughters, as always, and Mr Bennet remains long-suffering, whilst loving his girls. Darcy swims in the lake, and they all attend grand balls and functions, hoping to find the ideal husband, just as you might expect. But then the events are interjected with zombie attacks, allowing the characters to demonstrate their deadly skills.
It is actually great fun to hear the cast saying Austen’s formal lines, as they somersault over a zombie, cutting off its head. It really works as a concept, mainly because everyone plays it completely straight, and the Austen story continues as normal, despite the often madcap events surrounding an occasional clash with zombies. Costume and sets are perfect, and no expense was spared to recreate the conventional story, alongside a vision of London occupied by the undead. (This is probably why the film lost so much money)
Above all, it is the cast that makes this film so watchable. Gruff-voiced and dark-eyed, Sam Riley makes a perfect Darcy. Lily James is feisty and good to look at as Elizabeth Bennet, and her parents are handled well by the talents of Charles Dance, and Sally Phillips. Everyone looks right, and totally in period, never once succumbing to spoofing the potential comedy of the situation. In fact, despite the premise, it is far from being a comedy, and presented seriously as a real alternative to the well-known adaptations. Stylish, sassy, and occasionally a little sexy too. And it is not remotely scary.
I liked it a lot.