Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, 2016.
Directed by Burr Steers.
Starring Lily James, Sam Riley, Jack Huston, Sally Phillips, Bella Heathcote, Millie Brady, Douglas Booth, Charles Dance, Lena Headey and Matt Smith.
In 19th century England five sisters try to cope with the social pressures of the day, all the while fighting off hordes of marauding zombies.
Despite being based on a book – or two books, if you count Jane Austen’s original Pride & Prejudice – it is no doubt the inexplicable success of TV period drama Downton Abbey that will lend a hand to this film finding an audience outside of the zombie fanboys. Yes, inevitably when something becomes popular it will then be cross-pollenated with a genre from the opposite end of the spectrum and… TA DA! You now have a film based around two popular genres, in this case zombies and costume drama, so how could it fail?
Quite easily, as it happens. Well, maybe fail is a bit of a strong word because, in a sense, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies does work. For a film of limited means it looks pretty good, the zombies looking fairly basic on the whole but when a lingering shot is needed the make-up looks more or less like how a movie zombie should – i.e. rotting skin and a look of slight confusion and tragedy on their faces – and the acting is also of a considerably high standard, getting across the stiffness of the social classes that the original novel is based around but also playing it up a bit when it comes to the zombie parts of the story. In fact, the look and feel of the film is quite beyond what the am-dram trash that the title suggests and is much more pleasing on the eye to look at than your average low-budget CGI monster riot.
But, and there really is no other way to put it, this film is dull. Maybe it was to be expected because, at the risk of generalising, costume dramas are hardly adrenaline-fuelled action riots or laugh-a-minute chuckle-fests but you would think the inclusion of zombies would liven things up a bit… but it doesn’t. In the world of this film zombies are already a thing so we’re spared any scenes of characters trying to figure out what to do as they are already perfectly aware of the need to shoot them in the head, as it were, and the scenes of the Bennett sisters kitting up and putting knife blades in their garters approaches a tone similar to fantasy historical reimaginings like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, but the film never moves far enough away from straight costume drama to make the inclusion of the zombies anything other than a slight diversion that pop up every 20 minutes or so to remind you that this isn’t a straight Jane Austen adaptation.
So while it looks the part and everybody involved seems to be on board, as a piece of entertainment Pride and Prejudice and Zombies just doesn’t have enough oomph in either direction to make it any more than a novelty for the first 10 minutes and irritatingly underwhelming for the following 90. We’ve had zombies fighting strippers, cockneys, sharks, cowboys, students, Irish farmers (thanks for that one, George), soldiers and now frilly-shirted aristocrats and their betrothed – please, people, give it a rest until you can come up with something worthwhile because the decay has already set in on the rotten corpse of the zombie movie and half-arsed films like this really aren’t helping.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★