Reviewed by: Charity Bishop
Jane’s mother’s gold-digger plan toward Charles—with a priority of marrying her daughters to men with large bank accounts
horror movies and the follower of Christ
Lily James … Elizabeth Bennet
Lena Headey … Lady Catherine de Bourgh
Douglas Booth … Mr. Bingley
Matt Smith … Mr. Collins
Jack Huston … Mr. Wickham
Aisling Loftus … Charlotte Lucas
Charles Dance … Mr. Bennet
Emma Greenwell … Caroline Bingley
Sam Riley … Mr. Darcy
Suki Waterhouse … Kitty Bennet
Bella Heathcote … Jane Bennet
Hermione Corfield … Cassandra Featherstone
|Director:||Burr Steers—“17 Again” (2009), “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” (Writer—2003)|
Cross Creek Pictures
|Distributor:||Screen Gems, a division of Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment|
Life in Regency England has become really rather tedious. An unknown lethal illness has swept through England (many want to blame the French), creating a zombie infestation that is making it very difficult for proper young people to attend to the usual sorts of delights they like to indulge in… whist playing, balls, that sort of thing.
Fitzwilliam Darcy (Sam Riley) has adapted well, all things considering. He is an efficient zombie-slayer, dually suspicious about recent events at a highbrow house in the district. He ventures past the barbed wire, undergoes the rigorous screening process, and then rudely interrupts the card game by decapitating the host. Few are as ruthless, efficient, or creative in their zombie-murdering pursuits as the wealthy Mr. Darcy… except he has met his match in the equally talented Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James). She sneers at the idea of a ball (preferring instead to practice her fighting techniques), but attends regardless. There, the two meet, take an instant dislike to one another, and dispatch a couple of zombies… separately.
Her quiet dislike of him simmers in the background but bursts into full flame when Mr. Wickham (Jack Huston) arrives in town. Not only does he have a notorious grudge against the Darcy family, he also has in mind a scheme on how they might reach a peaceful coexistence with the zombie hordes—which, unfortunately, does not impress the formidable legendary warrior, Lady Catherine (Lena Headey). Then, there is Jane’s (Bella Heathcote) budding affection for Mr. Bingley (Douglas Booth)… and the annoying arrival of the Bennets” charmingly obnoxious cousin, Parson Collins (Matt Smith)…
This is pure camp, and it is hilarious, if you have a dark sense of humor. The ways it deviates from the source material (both the novelization and Jane Austen’s classic) are intensely creative; it re-imagines every scene and conflict from a new angle, which adds different dynamics to the unfolding relationships. The biggest change is that this story focuses almost entirely on Elizabeth and Darcy, to the extent that most of the secondary characters and subplots vanish in favor of a greater over-reaching zombie apocalyptic plot. Instead of bickering in the parlor over differences of opinion, the Bennet sisters pummel each other in martial arts training, matching their rapier wit against their slick fighting moves. The infamous proposal turns into a brawl that leaves poor Parson Collins’ furniture in shambles. There’s a terrific twist involving Mr. Wickham toward the end, and an ominous mid-closing credits scene just for kicks.
The costuming is gorgeous and—aside from one rather misplaced modern-looking prom dress at the ball—surprisingly accurate to the period (minus the thigh-high slits that allow for kickboxing maneuvers). The cast has terrific chemistry and comedic timing. Matt Smith all but steals the show as the most likable, buffoonish Collins to date. And despite being a zombie movie, it’s more romantic comedy and satire than straight up gore-fest. There is a lot of violence, in which many zombies die (the most ghoulish has the camera acting as a zombie’s vision, as Darcy cuts off its head and stomps on it), but to keep a PG-13 rating, most of it happens quickly, out of focus, or beneath the camera lens. (It’s apparent what is going on, though—a lot of stomping in of heads, slicing off of limbs, and blood spatters the screen once.) The first zombie we see has half her face gone and mucus bubbling out of her decimated nose. Zombies’ heads are blown off (there one second, gone the next, the body keels over). The Bennets punch, kick, and slash, not only zombies, but other assailants, and each other in training.
There is minimal bad language (Jane uses God’s name with an exclamation of surprise / a lament upon seeing a zombie mother with an infant in its arms, and Parson Collins says “buggar” in disappointment), but mild sensuality does pop up. The girls all wear cleavage-baring costumes, and one scene sees them in their unmentionables (corsets and underthings), tucking blades into thigh guards. The proposal turns violent, with Elizabeth attacking Darcy; she damages his vest, and he retaliates in kind, slicing open her top by two buttons. He winds up on top of her (in a non-sexual way) several times in the ensuing fight. An early scene has a lustful gay priest ogling Darcy (he comments on what a handsome, unblemished form he has).
The most potentially offensive twist for Christian audiences may come in the form of Saint Lazarus, a Church where zombies who refuse to dine on human brains meet, pray, worship, and take “communion”—pig brains and blood. If they do not consume human flesh, they do not fully transform and thus retain their humanity and intelligence. At the risk of revealing a plot twist, one character tries to live this life—his abstinence of sin keeps him sane, but cannot suppress his desire for power, which transforms into a slow growing evil. He believes he is intended to be the “zombie Antichrist.” This arc offers an interesting opportunity to ponder messages of faith and self-denial. It is in abstaining from our sinful urges, through our faith in Christ and our devotion to purity in a pursuit of higher holiness, that we refrain from becoming baser creatures—in a sense, metaphorical zombies. Those that give in to their sinful urges (the desire to eat brains) become full zombies—utterly lost, so given in to their primal (sinful) urges, that they no longer resemble their former selves. But self-denial is not enough to save us; we also need Christ—a force greater than ourselves.
Grotesque as the metaphor may be, it can serve as a reminder that only in Christ do we become truer versions of ourselves and escape our zombie-like state.
Violence: Heavy to extreme / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Moderate
…Absurd, but it has its moments…
—Ted Baehr, Movieguide
…slightly more diverting than the 2012 release “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.”… for all the splurch and head-lopping, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” is monotonal. It turns its action sequences into a noisy blur. …
—Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
…More half-hearted than horrifying… Zombie buffs are more likely to get a charge out of this one than Jane Austen devotees. The film does offer interesting performances and an occasional inspired riff on the original novel, but it’s hard to envision anyone leaving on an emotional high. … [2/5]
—Christian Hamaker, Crosswalk
…Brain dead… Jane Austen’s beloved comedy of manners gets defaced with reanimated corpses in a lifeless adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith's high-concept best-seller. …
—Keith Uhlich, The Hollywood Reporter
…an uneasy mix of humor, romance and horror, with dead spots throughout…
—Sarah Bryan Miller, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
…dead on arrival… a horror to sit through. …basically a one-joke comedy… not nearly enough material for a feature film. …
—Connie Ogle, The Miami Herald
…why on Earth is this movie, based on the satirical book by Seth Grahame-Smith, not having more fun? …the film’s biggest misstep is its unwillingness to embrace its own title… [2/4]
—Sara Stewart, New York Post