May 19, 2016


Starring Lily James, Sam Riley, Jack Huston, Bella Heathcote, Douglas Booth, Matt Smith, Charles Dance, Lena Headley. Directed by Burr Steers. (2016, 107 min).

Had this film been made five years earlier, when Seth Grahame-Smith's original mash-up novel was still a pop culture novelty, it might have found the audience it deserves. Instead, like most trends, the idea of infusing classic literature with monsters was quickly run into the ground, by both imitators and Grahame-Smith himself, who struck while the iron was hot with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. By the time Pride + Prejudice + Zombies was released, the concept had lost most of its luster, not helped by all the inferior rip-offs which proceeded it.

Too bad, really, because unlike the overly-serious adaptation of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire: Hunter, Pride + Prejudice + Zombies plays a lot like the original novel, presented with a completely straight face while never quite forgetting that it's ultimately a parody. Written and directed by Burr Steers, it looks and sounds just like your typical Jane Austen film (right down to the dialogue), punctuated by a zombie uprising subplot that never feels shoehorned in, almost as though the author herself came up with the whole idea.

When someone spikes the punch on prom night.

The cast is another big reason the whole thing works. At no point do they ever suggest they're in on the joke, playing their perspective roles with the same sincerity one would in a true Austen adaptation. While Lily James makes a formidable Elizabeth Bennet (vulnerable, yet ready to kick-ass at a moment's notice), Matt Smith as the nebbish Mr. Collins steals every scene he's in. Essentially comic relief, he'd still be amusing even if this were a straight retelling of Austen's story.

There are zombies, of course - lots of them - though the film uses them sparingly (no sense beating your only joke to death). While they figure prominently in the new plot, their appearance is seldom gratuitous. And when the expected zombie mayhem ensues, the PG-13 level of violence actually suits this film well. Since it's ultimately a parody of both Austen's work and the films inspired by it, hard core blood & gore would seem out of place.

So it's a shame Pride + Prejudice + Zombies didn't make its way into theaters sooner. While no classic, it's as clever and amusing as the original novel that launched so many other inferior mash-ups. Perhaps it will find the audience it deserves on home video.

  • FEATURETTES (most of which run 3-5 minutes each): "Courtship, Class & Carnage: Meet the Cast"; "From Austen to Zombies: Adapting a Classic"; "Mr. Collins' Line-O-Rama" (which is absolutely hilarious); "The Badass Bennet Sisters"; "Creating the Unmentionables"
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Gag Reel

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