Published: 12 February, 2016
by DAN CARRIER
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
THIS film sounds like a one-joke show.
In many ways it is – but the gag is done with such seriousness, it’s one you don’t mind being re-told, especially while women in period dress slice heads from the necks of the undead.
A plague has swept through 19th-century England. Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) and her four sisters are living in the countryside, overseen by the matriarchal Mrs Bennet (Sally Phillips) who, despite the roaming zombies threatening to bring down the social order, wants to see her girls married off.
Elizabeth and her siblings are no eyelid-flapping goodie-two-shoes looking for a man with private means. They have been trained in China by Shaolin monks and are able to despatch the undead with Ninja-like ferocity.
Circling the Bennet sisters are a number of suitors: the hugely rich and devastatingly handsome Mr Bingley (Douglas Booth), his dour and serious friend Mr Darcy (Sam Riley), Parson Collins (Matt Smith) and the tall, handsome but suspicious George Wickham (Jack Huston).
But as well as getting hitched, these women have battles on their minds.
While Austen’s original used the Napoleonic wars and the great unwashed as plot boilers, here the zombies take the place of both the French and the working classes. It was a clever trick by the novelist Seth Grahame-Smith, who wrote the genre mash-up book the screenplay is taken from.
But above all, this film provides kicks because it is stylishly made, it has enough of the original premise in there to give a strong term of reference for each joke, and it has a very funny script.
“Carelessness when dealing with a zombie infection could lead to your abrupt demise!” states Darcy.
“And arrogance, yours!” replies Miss Bennet.
Such set-to repartee pops up as frequently as an undead charwomen and horny-handed old scrotes, intent on gobbling brains, stagger towards the leads with flesh on their minds. Zombie films have gone from the George A Romero 1970s horror flicks to providing comedy, as Shaun of the Dead so ably illustrates. This film is a worthy addition to this fairly weird entertainment genre.