Pride & Prejudice & Zombies (2016)

 

Reviewer: Charity Bishop

 

Sometimes you don't know you've been missing something all along until you find it. True love. The perfect painting for your living room wall... Pride & Prejudice & Zombies. I walked in not expecting much and walked out still wearing the stupid grin that started up somewhere around the opening credits.

 

Regency England is in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. A vicious virus has transformed hundreds of thousands into the "undead." The rest of the population has been forced to acclimate -- to prepare and train for war. Mr. Bennett (Charles Dance) has raised his daughters not to be wives but warriors. The most independent, outspoken, and fearless of them all is Elizabeth (Lily James) -- who refuses to "relinquish [her] sword" for matrimony. Her younger sister Jane (Bella Heathcote) has a more romantic nature, and is delighted to attend the Netherfield ball. Her quiet manners attract the prompt attentions of Mr. Bingley (Douglas Booth), but Bingley's hardened warrior friend Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley) snubs Lizzie.

 

Then, all hell breaks loose at the ball... and heads literally start to roll. What transpires next is an old story told with a lot of new twists, altering many of the original novel's plot points (and by "original novel" I mean both the book this is based on and Jane Austen's literary masterpiece) -- there is a Mr. Wickham (Jack Huston), but he's more than you expect; Lady Catherine (Lena Headey) is the most formidable female fighter in England; and the infamous insulting proposal doesn't go exactly as you might think. Let's just say there are flying books, brandishing pokers, popping buttons, and a headlock involved. There's also a looming threat of impending doom, more peril than you can shake a stick at, and possibly the funniest "Parson Collins" (Matt Smith) to date. The film is a satire, knows what it is, and plays its humor flawlessly. It throws in zombies here and there, but the primary fun lies in seeing familiar scenes staged in new ways (let's just say Jane's illness isn't brought on by getting caught in the rain).

 

The cast is terrific, and everyone holds their own -- the two leads (and this is the first story that really does focus primarily on Lizzy and Darcy) have terrific chemistry. Bingley's inability to defend himself is a running joke. The camera loves to linger on Parson Collins and his hilarious expressions. Matt Smith is a delight who really does very nearly steal the entire film out from under everyone -- the first Collins to be likable, despite being an utter lunatic. The costuming is a blend between Regency and punk, the soundtrack is good, and there's a menacing ad-on scene halfway through the closing credits. If you're a purist, this may not be your cup of tea but it was the most fun I've had in months.

     
Sexual Content:
A clergyman makes a suggestive comment / looks suggestively at another man. Women frequently wear low-cut gowns and show some thigh. Lizzy and Darcy have a knock down brawl that winds up with him on top of her several times.
 
Language:
One use of "buggar," one "dear God."
 
Violence:
Zombies in various stages of revolting decay (ranging from almost normal to snot bubbles and half missing faces) are dispatched posthaste; in most cases by having their heads blown off (they also lose limbs, are decapitated, and sometimes spew blood at the camera); the camera acts as a zombie's eyes as Darcy cuts off its head. Elsewhere, Lady Catherine's thug tries to beat up Elizabeth, who protects herself (and possibly kills her assailant by knocking a roof on top of him); she attacks Darcy with books, a poker, and finally a knife (he defends himself); a character is stabbed through the chest. Corpses are seen with the brains removed; zombies are shown happily eating brains (briefly).

 
Other:
Inside a zombie church, zombies participate in "communion" (pig's blood with brains floating in it).