As awards season approaches, movie theaters are filled with artistic, Oscar-bait films. Now I certainly appreciate the cinematic endeavors of established directors and actors and I enjoy seeing all of the nominated films. But, I also believe in variety, so this weekend, I took a break from Spotlight and Carol and reaffirmed my love and affirmation for classic zombie flicks. I say classic because Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which is based on the 2009 parody of classic Jane Austen novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, gives many nods to older George Romero films. Upon first glance, the film could have easily veered either way-absolutely terrible or wildly fun. Thankfully Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was the latter.
Directed by Burr Steers (17 Again), Zombies follows the events of Jane Austen’s famous novel but instead of being set in the picturesque 19th century English countryside our story takes place in a zombie plagued world. The film is a unique mashup of two of literature and cinema’s most popular genres, romance and horror. Thankfully, the film combines both genres successfully, so it never feels too forced or unbelievable. The source material’s author, Grahame-Smith is also the mastermind behind Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter and thankfully for us, the film adaptation of Zombies is much more enjoyable than 2012’s Vampire Hunter.
The film boats a stellar cast. Lily James (Cinderella, War and Peace) stars as Elizabeth Bennet, the role that was most recently brought to life by Keira Knightley. While many actresses have portrayed the famous role on different occasions, Lily brings a freshness to a role that could have easily felt like a regurgitation of an arguably tired and overrated female character. Sam Riley (Maleficent) stars as Elizabeth’s suitor, Mr. Darcy. Unlike previously released adaptations, Riley’s Mr. Darcy not only wins Elizabeth’s heart but he also protects her from the flesh eating zombies on more than one occasion. Bella Heath (Dark Shadows), Ellie Bamber, Millie Brady and Suki Waterhouse portray Elizabeth’s sisters, all of whom are kick-ass zombie slayers. They’re all stunning and they play well off of Lily James and Sam Riley. Throw in Dr. Who favorite, Matt Smith as the flamboyant Parson Collins, the handsome Douglas Booth (Romeo and Juliet) as Mr. Bingley and Lena Headey (Game of Thrones) and you have yourself a beautiful ensemble fit for a Vogue cover.
The film differs from the traditional Pride and Prejudice as it is fast-paced, action packed and even comedic at times. The fight scenes are gruesome and will certainly please fans of The Walking Dead and Shaun of the Dead. Julian Day’s costumes are also beautiful and help bridge the gap between the worlds of 19th century romance and 21st century horror.
Bottom line: Jane Austen’s novel only provides structure and characters to this modern, zombie killing tale. Austen purists may find the film to be too much of a spoof while those who were first introduced to the story through the 2005 Keira Knightley film, may find it fun and entertaining. The film won’t be reeling in an Oscar but it does serve as a promising distraction for those who are still sobbing over Eddie Redmayne’s performance in The Danish Girl.
Rating: 7 out of 10