It is a truth universally acknowledged, that an oversaturated genre in possession of a loyal fan base must be in want of a fresh gimmick. However little known the feelings or views of such an audience may be on their first entering a new mash-up, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the studio executives, that they will consider licensing any property offering even the faintest hope of a prosperous match.
“Pride And Prejudice And Zombies” may have been the first of author Seth Graeme-Smith’s literary cross-breeds to be published but it’s the second to make it to the screen after 2012’s “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”. While it’s far more successful than the Civil War action adventure but it still suffers from the nagging doubt that instead of having one great movie to watch, you’re missing out on two better movies: a pretty good adaptation of Jane Austen’s beloved novel and a really interesting zombie apocalypse film set in the Regency.
The added complication of the zombie invasion is added into the existing structure of the story with some care and so you can actually enjoy this as Jane Austen story but it’s in the zombie story that the movie really intrigues but also fails to deliver on its promise. The idea of a zombie apocalypse occurring within a historic setting is rich with possibilities and potential, especially in the way such a class-driven and rigidly structured society would view and respond to such an outbreak but as the two stories progress, the film starts to become constrained…corseted, if you will, by the necessities of “Pride and Prejudice” and it’s the zombie aspect which suffers. Fascinating ideas are left half explored, especially around those who are resisting full zombification, leading to an effective class structure evolving amongst the undead to mirror that of the living.
The cast are decent enough, although Sam Riley is an underwhelming and uncharismatic Mr Darcy and would struggle to command a straight adaptation of the novel, let alone one which requires Darcy to be a formidable slayer of the undead. Ex-“Doctor Who” Matt Smith is a scene stealing hoot as Parson Collins while Lily James makes a sparky and “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”-esque Elizabeth Bennett and Douglas Booth brings his top cheekbone game to Mr Bingley. Charles Dance adds some much needed grit and gravitas to the otherwise pretty young cast although his “Game Of Thrones” co-star Lena Headey is wasted and quite wooden as the lifelessly piratical Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
There’s still fun to be had but it’s likely to leave both Austen fans and devotees of the undead unsatisfied at the comedy horror’s lack of bite.