"Pride and Prejudice and Zombies"
Release Date: Feb. 5, 2016
Running Time: 108 minutes
George A. Romero won't approve of the undead that roam the idyllic English countryside in the period horror parody Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The zombies not only run fast but they talk, communicate and possess free will. Sure, they want brains, but the only thing separating zombies from aristocrats are their lack of etiquette. It also distinguishes them from the traditional zombies that stumble through The Walking Dead. The idea of turning Jane Austen’s 1813 literary classic into a zombie bloodbath seemed novel back in 2009 when Seth Grahame-Smith published Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Today, not so much so, especially given that Grahame-Smith’s 2010 follow-up book Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter was adapted into a fun showdown between president and bloodsucker. Still, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies affords director Burr Steers an invaluable opportunity to shake up a horror subgenre that’s becomes become comfort food to the masses during the past decade. Like Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies isn’t intended as an Airplane- or a Scary Movie-style comic romp. Steers, who previously directed Igby Goes Down, takes a high-minded approach to his source material as though he’s involved in an Merchant-Ivory production. He treats Austen’s romantic comedy of manners with the respect it deserves while finding the obvious humor in the predicament that Lily James’ gutsy proto-feminist Elizabeth Bennet and Sam Riley’s oh-so-moody Mr. Darcy find themselves when England’s overrun by zombies. Elizabeth and her sisters are required to employ their years of training as warriors to take out the undead in swift and merciless fashion. Despite the zombie threat, the family matriarch seeks to marry off her daughters to rich eligible bachelors. Elizabeth isn’t in a rush to marry, but she finds herself both attracted to and repelled by the bold but blunt Mr. Darcy, who has emerged as one the country’s best military minds during this time of conflict. Enter the charming Jack Huston’s Mr. Wickham, an army officer and a potential rival for Elizabeth’s affections. Assuming, of course, they survive an impending zombie assault. There are times when there’s too much Pride and Prejudice and not enough zombies in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but at least Steers’ keen fascination with Bennett and Mr. Darcy’s love-hate relationship as well as the class and gender politics of the day keeps us preoccupied between zombie attacks. Plus Steers has a secret weapon in former Dr. Who Matt Smith, who is delightfully hilarious as the mind-numbingly dull chauvinist clergyman Mr. Collins. Steers also displays too much restraint when it comes to the living vs. the dead. For a parody that yearns for some personality, Steers only gets his Quentin Tarantino on once when Elizabeth and her sisters fend off an army of zombies. By my count, there’s only one instance when we witness a zombie chew through human flesh, and even then it’s during a pre-credit scene that serves to establish Mr. Darcy as a force to be reckoned with. There’s also a noticeable lack of blood and gore. I would like to think Steers is attempting to be as noble and refined as the members of the British upper crust that populate Austen’s novel. However, I’m more inclined to believe that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was hacked to pieces in the cutting room in order to secure a PG-13 rating. To misquote Austen, “Nothing is more deceitful than the appearance of teen-friendly horror.”
Aired: Feb. 4, 2016
Web site: http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/prideandprejudiceandzombies/