When Jane Austen wrote her famous 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice, it’s doubtful she would have imagined zombies invading her space. In an era where new twists are spun on classic stories, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies marks its own ghoulish spot. Amidst the pomp and circumstance of genteel nobility, the undead rise to ravage Austen’s characters. What follows is mostly fiendish fun even if Austen scholars will most likely disapprove of such spectral antics.
In 19th century Britain, a mysterious plague blights the land. Soon overrun by the living dead, the denizens of Britain’s high society decide to fight. One is Elizabeth Bennett (Lily James), an expert in martial arts and weaponry. Along with suitor Mr Darcy (Sam Riley), she aims to rid her country of the zombie menace even while wearing the tightest of corseted garments.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies utilises its gimmicky mash-up of Austen and Zombies to its fullest effect. Most of the time it works a treat as deadly earnest dramatics amongst characters wonderfully clash with zombie horrors. Whilst enjoyable, the central conceit tends to quickly run out of steam as does its sense of humour. This is meant to be a ridiculous movie diving into the concept with glee, which it only occasionally does.
The cast rise above such niggles with aplomb. Riley and James ensure their characters embody the chemistry Austen’s prose brought. They do the star-crossed lovers thing well, even when battling grisly ghoulies. Burr Steers ensures his direction isn’t too heavy-handed, showing stylish flair with well-staged action sequences. The gloriously kept old English buildings are always pleasing on the eye with the 19th Century vividly brought to life by stunning cinematography.
Less fun than it should have been, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies still offers diverting viewing. It will be interesting seeing what other classic novels can be twisted around, with Shakespeare’s works surely next in line to merge with modern genre staples.
Reviewed by Patrick Moore
Rating out of 10: 6