By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
I have never actually read anything by parody author Seth Grahame-Smith, but have seen one film adaptation of his book Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Although I found that particular movie moderately entertaining and fun, it really isn’t a movie I would highly recommend. Going into this latest film adaptation of a Grahame-Smith novel, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Now that I have seen this awesome and badass movie, I am beginning to get convinced that Grahame-Smith is a brilliant artist in his own right.
One doesn’t have to be a fan of the author or even casually familiar with his work to appreciate or enjoy this movie. If one loves both period stories (particularly of the Jane Austen variety) and zombie flicks, then this movie will be an absolute dream mash-up. Adapted and directed by Burr Steers, Pride Prejudice and Zombies is so good that it might turn a few diligent Jane Austen fans into zombie movie freaks.
Set in England during the 19th century, a terrible plague has affected the kingdom of Great Britain. This horrible disease turns normal, living people into undead, flesh-eating zombies. In order to survive, people have trained in martial arts to defend themselves against the vile creatures. Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) is one particular master of martial arts and weapons usage. Because of Elizabeth’s shewd and willful nature, her loving parents have a difficult time finding suitors for her. Her sisters, particularly the lovely Jane (Bella Heathcoate), don’t seem to have that problem, however. When Elizabeth meets the strong, silent, but slightly snobby Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley), their attraction is undeniable, but pride and prejudice threaten to keep them apart. Darcy and Elizabeth will have to put these differences aside to discover their love and also to survive the zombie attacks that constantly plague their society.
I have to say that I left the theater quite pleased with a huge grin from ear to ear. Burr Steers has done a wonderful job adapting this story, and if it is faithful to the novel that inspires it, I am even more impressed with author Seth Grahame-Smith. I must also indicate that I have not read the original Austen novel on which Grahame-Smith based his work, but have seen one movie adaptation. From what I recall, much of the material, including lines of Austen-penned dialogue remain intact and just as moving, even in this odd and bold re-imagining. The romantic and heartfelt lines and dialogue still have their punch to them, but some of them also have a more comedic impact as they are being delivered while zombies are being fought. This back and forth pendulum of romantic drama, and satirical wit works really well in this film and to a highly entertaining effect. One doesn’t even have to be a fan of Austen’s story, or be familiar with it to enjoy the exciting and top notch action in the film. It does add to the entertainment factor, though.
The cast deserves high praise for their solid and straight-faced delivery of the material and their absolute commitment to their characters and world. I am impressed with Lily James, who even looks a little like Keira Knightley who stars as Elizabeth in Joe Wright’s adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. James has the acting chops to pull of the strong and temperamental Elizabeth, and credibly pulls off the zombie-fighting scenes. Sam Riley may not look like Matthew MacFayden (from Wright’s film) or even Colin Firth (from the British television mini-series), but he has the talent and screen presence to pull of this ass-kicking version of Mr. Darcy. The movie also features applaudable work by Bella Heathcoate, Ellie Bamber, Millie Brady, Sukie Waterhouse, Douglas Booth, Sally Phillips, Charles Dance, Jack Huston, and Lena Headey.
For those who equally loathe period and zombie stories, then this movie obviously will not be worth checking out. I feel if one likes at least one of these types, then this movie might be more pleasing. The ones who should absolute adore this film are the movie buffs who have room in their heart for both styles. Though I am not a die-hard fan of Austen stories, I can appreciate a well written and directed cinematic adaptation. I do also happen to enjoy a good zombie movie, and this one definitely more than qualifies. It turns out, in the right hands, Jane Austen-meets-George Romero can work and offer fans the best of both worlds.