Review: Pride And Prejudice And Zombies Isn’t Very Good But Weirdly Entertaining
Title: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Director: Burr Steers
Screenwriter: Burr Steers (screenplay), Jane Austen (Quirk Books novel), and Seth Grahame-Smith (Quirk Books novel)
Principal Cast: Lily James, Sam Riley, Bella Heathcote, Ellie Bamber, Millie Brady, and Douglas Booth
Summary: Jane Austen’s classic tale of the tangled relationships between lovers from different social classes in 19th century England is faced with a new challenge — an army of undead zombies.
I decided to see Pride and Prejudice and Zombies over Hail, Caesar! this week. This is a decision that may seem baffling, but as a former English major I enjoy anything that makes fun of the books I’ve been forced to read many times over. I don’t have a problem with Austen, I usually enjoy different adaptations of her work, but they can vary wildly in quality. The Austen angle wasn’t what I was worried about when it came to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but the zombie angle itself. The book that this is based on came out in 2009 and the movie has been stuck in “development hell” for almost as long. I had a sneaking suspicion that this type of movie might be too little, too late as we have all gotten more than a little sick of the zombie genre by now.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is far from a good Austen adaptation, or a good zombie movie, but its willingness to play everything completely straight left me oddly entertained.
As I said back in my review of Viktor Frankenstein, I tend to have a fondness for camp and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is absolutely camp. The fact that the original source material is basically the groundwork for almost all romantic comedies now (girl and boy hate each other but then learn to love each other) also helps. The original book, while I haven’t read it entirely, is basically a straight re-telling of the source material with words occasionally changed to “zombie”. The movie goes in a different direction and builds an entire mythos using the zombie angle as a metaphor for the black death and other diseases that have wiped out nearly all of Europe’s population. There are crazy battles and sword wielding maidens that sit together cleaning their guns instead of drinking tea. The juxtaposition is intentional but doesn’t always work.
The actors are playing everything completely straight with the exception of Lena Headey as Lady Catherine de Bourgh who is the only one who seems in on the joke. The thing that hurts the movie is that everyone else is playing everything a little too subdued. They aren’t indulging in any irony but they also aren’t going for broke in any way that would make everything extremely entertaining. There is a fine line between overacting and being in on the joke and it feels like most of the cast isn’t quite there. The pacing is also very odd, which is another way the juxtaposition between the zombies and the period dramas don’t work. The movie grinds to a halt when it becomes an Austen adaptation again and then ramps back up for more zombie kills. In a movie it’s a bit too much, but that kind of tonal dissonance could have worked for a longer form of media such as a television show or a web series.
All of that being said (and while I cannot in any way say that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a good movie) by the time the credits rolled I was oddly entertained in a terrible sort of way. It wasn’t as amusing to me as say Viktor Frankenstein, but I enjoyed the movie a lot more than I thought I would. This is one of those movies that people who are into the genre of camp will enjoy more than those who are not, but isn’t really good enough camp for me to entirely recommend it. If you’re of age and a drinker, I feel like this would be a good movie to bring a flask into.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is not a good movie, or even great camp, but I was oddly entertained at the end. Is this a movie you should run out and see? Absolutely not. However, if you have the time to catch a matinee or a pass that needs to be used, you could certainly do worse. If you’re of age and have a cinema pub nearby this might make for an amusing evening with friends.