Feb 092016
 
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies poster
Title: Pride And Prejudice And Zombies
Director: Burr Steers
Starring: Lily James,
Lena Headey,
Sam Riley,
Charles Dance,
Matt Smith
Genre: Action, Horror, Romance, Comedy
Runtime: 1 Hour 48 mins
Music: Fernando Velázquez
Studio: Lionsgate
Certificate: US: PG-13
UK: 15
Release Date: US: Feb 05 2016
UK: Feb 12 2016
See If You Like: Shaun Of The Dead,
Warm Bodies,

…& Missed Opportunities & Corsets & Chivalry &…

We’re on the verge of something quite peculiar as we approach  Valentine’s Day 2016 – there really isn’t a big, straight up romantic film on the cards. Everything seems either ignored low-key straight romance options, counter programming efforts or a weird mix with another genre. The long shuffling journey of parody horror/comedy-cum-romance novel Pride & Prejudice & Zombies to the cinema finally meets it’s end with the Jane Austin book meeting the walking undead being a tremendous idea for a smash up parody. Although there is some merit in this big screen adaptation, P&P&Z suffers from not going far enough with it’s core concept.

In an alternative history take, a zombie plague has been brought back from the far reaches of the British Empire and begun to infect the population of Regency era Great Britain. London had a great wall, and an even greater canal, built around her to keep the undead in. Generally, whilst the deadly threat of zombies is prominent throughout the land, the upper hierarchy of English civilisation carries on as usual with meetings and balls.

The Bennet sisters have all been trained by their father (Charles Dance, Child 44) in the arts of weaponry and martial arts. Mrs. Bennet (Sally Phillips, Miranda) would rather see her lovely daughters married off to wealthy suitors. The arrival of the Bingley family, led by the handsome young Mr. Bingley (Douglas Booth, Jupiter Ascending), catches the eye of the eldest daughter Jane (Bella Heathcote, The Rewrite) and the two begin a friendship whilst non-committal Elizabeth (Lily James, Burnt) sees herself become the attention of closed, undead slaying, Colonel Darcy (Sam Riley, Maleficent), charming serving soldier Mr. Wickham (Jack Huston, The Longest Ride) and flustery relation Parson Collins (Matt Smith, Terminator Genisys). Can true love blossom in this time of uncertainty or will the undead snuff out the living beforehand?

There’s one big problem stopping P&P&Z from excelling to it’s undoubted comedic potential – it doesn’t go far enough. The punchline of the joke is in here, with the genre smash-up of regency balls & chivalrous nature of courting going one-on-one against the backdrop of a slow but sure Zombie Armageddon. The problem is, that smash up doesn’t end as a multi-car motorway pile up that you can’t take your eyes off like it’s supposed to; rather a minor fender bender that you can forget about. There’s a fair bit cut away from what made the humour from the book work – there are no zombies eating messengers so lovey dovey messages of compassion don’t get through, and gone is the unacceptability of a lady to carry around a musket, for example. If it wasn’t for the needed but unsatisfactory end action sequence the zombies would be a non-factor in this whole movie.

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Oh sure they are there, but the focus is way more on the actual Pride & Prejudice aspects of the plot. There are long periods of time when you completely forget that this is supposed to be a part-zombie horror movie. The undead themselves are portrayed as relatively ineffective with not one character of importance being chomped down on. In fact it’s surprising this film has a 15 rating in the UK, since there isn’t a great deal of gory scenes. The make-up used on the zombies themselves is fantastic though; zombies walk around with faces half-missing due to decay, whilst being able to bubble snot. There is a nice spot of humanism restored compared to the vast majority of iterations of the undead, with some not being brainless in their quest for… well, brains and are capable of speech, setting traps for humans and disguising themselves. It’s just these moments are few and far between as we focus more on the on-off relationships we see our human lovebirds go through.

Elsewhere, we have flashes of a better film not realised. We see a snippet of Lena Headey (Game Of Thrones) as a one-eyed, ravenous, all-conquering zombie warrior in a couple second flashback and, yeah, that’s it. Her set-up is awesome being one of the wealthiest & most-powerful women in the land, in her well guarded, on-arches household that is unreachable by the deceased. And yet, all she does is put a menacing look on and does nothing. Smith’s Parson Collins offers nothing yet poorly implemented comic “relief”. The overall plot has some obvious reveals that are road mapped in advance. You hardly see any good zombie kills for that matter, which is what you want from a bizarre mash up like this.

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What P&P&Z does well is creating an authentic feel to the Regency setting. The scene dressing  and costume design is truly wonderful stuff. The film comes off like a time warp to those days; with glorious sizing up of manors and manners by the upper class characters. Corsets and girdles are a nice touch, especially with the in-tone undergarment holsters for hidden knives and swords. The Elizabeth & Darcy martial art exchange as they argue over their relation’s relationships is a well placed and funny sequence, and the cast generally seem to know what kind of film they were in and hammed it up nicely when needs be. As a bit of cinematic escapism, it helps that there is plenty of eye candy for both genders to wobble and pout for the camera. Director Burr Steers of Charlie St. Cloud fame has a good eye for cinematography in a nicely shot film (especially enjoyable were the blurred extreme zoom ins as a zombie moves in for the kill). He adds in some nice weight to gun shots too with a wonderful head shot early on coming off like a sonic boom had been fired from a cannon next to your ear drums.

Upon reflection P&P&Z was disappointing… but not. That’s quite a confusing statement to make, but it echoes how unfulfilling the film is. It does what it says on the tin, but there’s not enough to make it a worthwhile endeavour. What is produced of this period-drama-meets-action/horror mash-up is fine but lacks a satisfying edge. The cast and authentic setting saves this from being a below average film but you’ll walk away with the thought that this could have been way better.

Terry Lewis@lewisonlife

Verdict:
Ratings 05 Buy from Amazon.co.uk Buy from Amazon.com