PRIDE & PREJUDICE & ZOMBIES

2.5 out of 10

Release Date: 11th February 2016

Director: Burr Steers (Charlie St. Cloud / 17 Again / Igby Goes Down)

Cast: Lily James, Sam Riley, Jack Huston, Douglas Booth, Sally Phillips, Bella Heathcote, Ellie Bamber, Millie Brady, Suki Waterhouse, Emma Greenwell, Morfydd Clark, Dolly Wells and Charles Dance with Matt Smith and Lena Headey

Trailer: PRIDE & PREJUDICE & ZOMBIES

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Now this was disappointing. This one-joke zombie fails to capitalise on a pretty good conceit and as a result it’s probably the flattest bigger-budget zombie flick to shuffle out on British cinemas to date. Wearing it’s gimmick on it’s sleeve, it’s essentially a retelling of the Jane Austen novel with some flesh-eating zombies thrown in to liven it up. Only the added USP actually deadens it up. When one of the zombies begins to hold a conversation with the living you know that the scare factor just got dialled down to zero. Talking, intelligent zombies are a real turn off. So its clear from the off this is an attempt at zom-com, except there are no jokes either.  It’s left to the period design and the acting to impress, except they don’t.

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies looks like an exercise in obligation. You’ve all had experiences where you’re all in the pub have  funny idea, are all committed to it in the spirit of camarderie but come the sober light of day you can’t be bothered and no longer see the funny side. PPZ is like that, except the one wag who still found the idea funny stitched everyone up with cast iron contracts, thats assuming the actors in this were friends to begin with, except there’s no chemistry. The high-profile cast are just going through the motions with the exception of former Dr Who, Matt Smith (TERMINATOR 5) who is excellent as the local Clergy man, the Rev’d Collins.

The main plot of the Jane Austen original isn’t disrupted too badly throughout the earlier sections but this still comes off a poor second to even Joe Wright’s 2005 re-run. You’re thinking, ‘I already know these bits, bring on the zombies’. It’s a bad thing in a way and by the time the first hour is through you know you’re definitely not going to see any improvements. I was willing it to be better because I was looking forward to it.

Sam Riley (CONTROL) and Lily James (WAR AND PEACE) are OK as the leads but beyond a cool bit of swordplay and martial arts tom-foolery they are indistinguishable from the legion of Col. Darcys and Elizabeth Bennetts that have gone before. A subplot about feeding zombies pig’s brains is too convoluted and story-killing for my liking and the race against time at the ending lacks urgency or suspense. All that’s left to commend is the ‘look’ of the film which is the sole success. The zombies and the settings all look spot-on. The costumes are perfect and it’s a good job there was money for this kind of thing as it’s the only aspect in the entire film that feels like it was accomplished with a degree of love and care. Otherwise this is a machine-like bore that could have done with a bit more spring in its step, more jokes, less talk and a degree of suspense.

2.5 out of 10 – Flat and lifeless. An expensive looking film with no life whatsoever to it. As a comedy there’s one joke, the concept. As a horror there’s no atmosphere. An empty experience.

Another review by Matt ‘Shuffler’ Usher below

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

  • Lily James: Baby Driver, War and Peace (TV), Burnt, Downton Abbey (TV), Cinderella (2015), Broken (2013), Fast Girls, Wrath Of The Titans
  • Sam Riley: Free Fire, Suite Francaise, Maleficent, Byzantium, On The Road, Brighton Rock (2011), 13 (2010), Franklyn, Control
  • Jack Huston: Berlin I Love You, Ben Hur (2016), Hail Caesar, The Longest Ride, American Hustle, Night Train To Lisbon, Kiss Your Darlings, The Hot Potato, Boardwalk Empire (TV), Twilight- Eclipse, Mr Nice, Outlander, Shrooms, Factory Girl
  • Douglas Booth: A Storm In The Stars, The Riot Club, Jupiter Ascending, Noah, Romeo & Juliet (2013), LOL
  • Sally Phillips: Burn Burn Burn, Set The Thames On Fire, The Rizen 2, The Rizen, Bridget Jones 3, Miranda (TV), Green Wing (TV), Bridget Jones 2, Bridget Jones, Mean Machine, Birthday Girl, Born Romantic
  • Bella Heathcote: Fifty Shades Darker, Neon Demon, Dark Shadows, Beneath Hill 60, Neighbours (TV)
  • Ellie Bamber: Nocturnal Animals
  • Suki Waterhouse: Insurgent, Love Rosie
  • Emma Greenwell: Love & Friendship, Shameless US (TV)
  • Morfydd Clark: Love & Friendship,  The Call Up, The Falling
  • Dolly Wells: Black Mountain Poets, 45 Years, Benny & Jolene, Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy (TV), Dolly & Em (TV), Some Girls (TV), Spy (TV), Morvern Callar
  • Charles Dance: Underworld 5, Ghostbusters 3, Me Before You, Despite The Falling Snow, Woman In Gold, Child 44, The Imitation Game, Dracula Untold, Game Of Thrones (TV), Midnight’s Children,  St. George’s Day, Underworld 4, Your Highness, Ironclad, Starter For Ten, Gosford Park, Ladies In Lavender (dir), Swimming Pool, Ali G In Da House,  Black and White (2002), Hilary & Jackie, Michael Collins, Space Truckers, Exquisite Tenderness, China Moon, Century, The Last Action Hero, Alien 3, Hidden City, The Golden Child, White Mischief, James Bond – For Your Eyes Only
  • Matt Smith: Terminator 5, Lost River, Doctor Who – Day of the Doctor, Dr Who (TV), Clone
  • Lena Headey: Game Of Thrones (TV), The Adventurer – Curse of the Midas Box, Black Plague (2015), 300 – part 2, The Mortal Instruments, The Purge,  Dredd, The Broken, The Brothers Grimm, Imagine Me & You, St. Trinians, 300, The Cave, Ripley’s Game, The Parole Officer, Gossip, Onegin, If Only, Mrs Dalloway, Face, Waterland, The Grotesque, The Jungle Book (1994), Century, The Remains Of The Day
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One thought on “PRIDE & PREJUDICE & ZOMBIES

  1. Review by Matt Usher

    Harry Enfield (I think) once did a sketch where The Terminator gatecrashed The Remains of the Day. If I remember rightly, the Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson characters reacted with great English stiff-upper-lippery to the intrusion. It was played entirely straight and was moderately funny.

    PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES is basically that sketch writ large. And how I wish it had been just a clutch of sketches instead. As such it might have been rather brilliant. As a full-length feature film the joke wears off before the opening credits (which start nine minutes in). Actually the opening credits are pretty good, showing an eighteenth/nineteenth century zombie apocalypse in popup storybook form. After that it’s not exactly downhill, more a gentle meander along a plateau.

    Plotwise the film follows the book closely (i.e. the Bennet sisters learn that men are pigs but also the only defence against homelessness). This time round the film amends the story by setting it against the backdrop of a war against zombies. In some ways it’s skilfully done, but ultimately, doesn’t really do anything particularly interesting. It’s fine for a few gags, but never really, despite the whole pig-brain-eating-zombies-thing, becomes a seriously disruptive element of the plot. There’s never a sense that the zombies will actually alter anything. Although the film manufactures a grandstanding climax to do with escaping an infested London, there’s not enough intervention along the way. It’s almost as if it’s just another Pride and Prejudice film which just happens to have some zombie stuff seamlessly spliced in.

    So for the most part the film follows the plot of the Austen original surprisingly closely, but when there’s room for development (Lena Headey’s Lady Catherine is something of a departure, as is all the stuff about the brains) the film doesn’t follow through. It never quite has the confidence to go off on its own. So where do the zombies fit in? Basically they’re the French. This makes the film unusual in bringing the book’s military background further into the foreground, and the zombies as proxy French works quite cleverly without tipping over into xenophobia. Admittedly, the zombie element ramps up for the finale (which is fair enough, Austen’s finale is noticeably lacking in death-defying thrills) but even here it’s just a standard-issue race against time. And the twist ending is terrible.

    There are nice touches to start with: the Bennet sisters doing martial arts training whilst discussing the prospects of Bingley and Darcy is funny. For a while. And Matt Smith deserves some sort of award for shameless scene-stealing. The film perks up whenever he appears as the odious Mr Collins. But no Pride and Prejudice should depend on its Mr Collins. Unfortunately the Bennets are a colourless bunch, Sally Phillips underplaying the most over the top woman in literature, while Charles Dance looks ill at ease as the father, and manages to squander what should be his best bit. Bella Heathcote plays Jane with a woodenness difficult to credit (there are two infodump speeches where I swear she’s reading the script for the first time). Lydia is sidelined ludicrously. Elizabeth is played by Lily James. She’s very good, too good for this sort of rubbish, and the director seems more interested (in ironic fashion, I’m sure) in finding different ways of framing and highlighting her heaving bosom (honestly, I think the director’s entire knowledge of the Austen genre is ‘heaving bosoms in old dresses’). Nevertheless she looks and sounds like a typical Austen heroine, which is a prerequisite for this sort of exercise. But what is an Elizabeth Bennet without her Darcy? That pivotal role is taken here by Sam Riley, who I haven’t previously seen (he’s best known for CONTROL, the film about an unhappy dead singer). I was struck by his voice. In a bad way. Indeed, when popping him into Google I find that I am not alone: others have queried ‘Sam Riley voice’, so there’s clearly something going on there. He plays Darcy with a voice which should be gravelly, it’s aiming for gravel and depth, but it only reaches Cockney. A number of times he sounds like he’s doing Ray Winstone impersonations. Suffice to say I was less than impressed by his performance, and more than utterly baffled by his casting.

    If you’ve not read the original (and I mean the Austen classic not the zombie book) it might be a good idea to become familiar with it, but if you do know it would you really want to sit through a 103 minute zombie variation on it? (I guess the producers thought it’d be a great film for couples: she can watch the zombie massacre while he weeps over the romance; when will producers learn not to second guess and just tell good stories?) And if you stubbornly refuse to acquaint yourself with one of the gems/treasures/pinnacles/cornerstones of English literature (and are thus a craven, lazy poltroon) then the same question pertains. If, on the other hand, you’re a fan of all things zombie then might there be something here for you? Not a great deal; you might even be more interested in FALLEN SOLDIERS, a not terribly successful but quite interesting film set in the Napoleonic Wars with bonus zombie action. But then you’d miss Matt Smith, and he really is a lot of fun in this – he seems to be the only member of the cast who’s actually given any thought to the job.

    PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES isn’t a spoof, it’s a pastiche (or possibly a parody). It’s trying to be both a faithful costume drama adaptation, and a zombie movie. In order to do that it really has to both be faithful to and slightly cheeky with those two genres. It’s faithful enough, but it lacks zeal; in TV terms, this should have been a BBC period drama with HBO zombies; unfortunately it’s more like an ITV period drama with BBC zombies: pretty to look at but with no bite.

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