Hollywood is frequently criticized about it’s never-ending recycling of novels and films without adding a drop of anything approaching inspired creativity. It’s the same story time after time, with only new faces speaking the same lines; Jane Austin’s classic 1813 novel, Pride and Prejudice has been adapted for the screen no less than a dozen times itself. Well, here’s an outing that definitely can’t be said to not take things off into uncharted territory. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is based on the parody mashup novel by Seth Grahame-Smith (the same fellow who also used the same basic premise in his Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter). Set in an alternate-earth where a zombie outbreak has happened during the early part of the Regency era, most of England has been overrun and the few remaining safe zones are inhabited by a culture that’s three parts Jane Austin, two parts Walking Dead, and one part Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.
Austin’s various familiar characters swirl around, there’s the Bennet family, Mr. Darcy, and Mr. Bingley. There just happens to also be a horde of brain-hungry zombies doing their best to find their way past the human’s defenses and each of the Bennet daughters have been raised in the fine arts of etiquette, ballroom dance, and Chinese martial arts. Mix in full line for line scenes from the original novel then have a zombie burst in, interrupting a perfectly good hand of wist. Some characters are painted quite differently – Lady Catherine de Bourgh (played by Game of Thrones’ Lena Headey) rather than just being the obstacle to Elisabeth Bennet’s quest for Mr. Darcy’s affections, now she is the most celebrated zombie-killer of them all—she’s like Cersei Lannister, but with an eyepatch. Mr. Wickham isn’t just the manipulative cur from the novel, this time about he also might be something other than fully human.
Once the novelty of the mashup fades, however, it settles down to a more traditional zombie film – and one that is somewhat hindered by poor cinematography. There are images from the fights that are impressive, but they’re full of budget-level effects and rapid cutting to the extent that much of the effect is lost. It could have been a really fun guilty pleasure film, but it seems that action sequences is not screenwriter/director Burr Steers’ strong point. But for people who have a fondness for both zombie films and would love to see some of their favorite Jane Austin characters kicking ass – grab some popcorn kick back, and enjoy the ride.
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