Are There Lesbians? No
It’s the literary classic Pride and Prejudice. With zombies. And several embellishments to add drama to the screen. (NB. This review is for the movie not the book!)
It was actually ridiculously hard to track down a viewing of this movie. It’s only been out two weeks but it has about three showings a day and they’re all at impossible times (namely really early or really late). Luckily The GF and I managed to find one on a day we were both free – her birthday! Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is worth tracking down however although it requires a suspension of both belief and almost all previous knowledge of Austen literature. I was, perhaps, rather lucky to have forgotten most of the plot of the novelisation of (although I remember a rather exciting battle involving Lizzy (Lily James) and ninjas which is unfortunately not in the movie), as I’m reasonably sure that the latter part of the film is vastly different. There are enough original Austen quotes, some slightly altered, that one is immersed in the empirical style, but enough original content that one is not constantly comparing it to the original.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a parody but not a necessarily comedic one. Laughter comes from characters unexpectedly being dragged down by zombies, and in the silence after Wickham (Jack Huston) says “I have something to show you” leaving just enough time for a few people to whisper “It’s my dick”. The GF included. Be warned that this is a horror movie at heart and while there aren’t any jump scares per se there are a few moments where even though you know something bad is about to happen, the revelation of the zombie itself is quite grotesque (there is also a moment near the beginning where a character is suddenly rushed by a zombie and it’s shown from her point of view which is startling to say the least). Unfortunately the artistic changes to Pride and Prejudice did not extend to presenting any of our favourite sisters as lesbians (honestly there are five of them, the odds should be in our favour!) In true Austen style however, they are diverse in temperament and each is a strong character in her own right. This is emphasised not only in their traditional ladylike skills but also in the Bennet sisters mastery of the deadly arts – something that is used to show not only individual strengths but also their bond of sisterhood.
Mrs Bennet (Sally Phillips) is of course a tour de force to be reckoned with – any woman still so determined to marry her daughters well in a land fraught with zombies and successfully makes small talk with Lady Catherine is a woman to be feared for sure. Literature’s favourite couple Lizzy and Darcy (Sam Riley) are perfectly matched, not only in wit and temperament but also in less polite arts such as fisticuffs, something that is proven with an enjoyable and rather risque fight scene between the two after his first proposal, leaving me expectant that the two would humorously be interrupted in flagrante delicto, or so their observer would assume. With Darcy as the ultimate literary heartthrob, I at first thought Sam Riley was not quite up to par on the looks department, however about halfway through the film something interesting happened. It goes like this – early on The GF mentions that he has a rather sexy voice to which i cannot help but respond “Fraaaaaan, is that you Fraaaan?” (if you haven’t seen black books please love yourself and do so). Then, somewhere between a zombie decapitation and smasheration (what’s the verb of smashing someone’s head in?) and the end, Sam Riley well, grew on me. I still would say that he isn’t any Colin Firth or even perhaps a Matt Smith (who plays Mr Collins and who – I don’t particularly like but can appreciate), however Sam Riley brings to Darcy a menacing broodiness that makes much more sense in this world of zombies than the character’s traditional reticence does.
Ok so that’s the good part of the movie, now for the bad. While there is not much strictly wrong with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and it is certainly a lot of fun, it is no great piece of filmography. That aside, I had one, glaring problem with it. Pride and Prejudice is a female-led story, with the majority of the major events being caused by said women. Why therefore, is the climactic moment of the story a dramatic face-off between Darcy and Wickham? Is it to mirror the earlier one between Lizzy and Lady Catherine (Lena Headey)? But why am i suddenly faced with a good, solid five minutes without a single female in frame? It was with boundless relief on my part, that I watched Lizzy ride in to save the day, preventing a killing blow ending darcy once and for all. But still, “how is a guy now the main character?” isn’t something you want to be thinking in any Austen adaptation.
Overall, however, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a fun movie for any fan of zombies and kickass heroines. And anyone who considers tracking down movie times as the height of exciting adventures.