Sunday, 28 February 2016

Film Review - "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies"

I need to start with a confession.  I have never read Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" - and I have never watched any of the adaptations. Obviously, a few of the characters are known - Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy, of course.  You know that she seems a bit of a snob whereas he seems to be remarkably arrogant.  It's almost as though you absorb some of the knowledge by osmosis.  I have, however, read "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" and I watched the film with a work colleague who has not only read Jane Austen's original work but prides herself on having seen every single film/tv adaptation.

As for the plot, whereas I was thinking that, in some areas, it deviated quite wildly from the "PPZ" book, my colleague was actually impressed at how much of Austen's original work was very apparent in this film. Essentially though, it does what it says on the tin - it's "Pride and Prejudice"...with zombies.  Set around half a century after a Zombie "pandemic" has essentially cut off London, the well-bred Bennett sisters are not genteelly sewing but happily sharpening swords and cleaning muskets whilst discussing their neighbours or marriage.  They carry on this typically 19th Century obsession with marrying well whilst quite matter of factly beheading and slaughtering zombies - and this juxtaposition works well on screen mainly due to the fact that the cast play it totally straight.  The main strength of the film is definitely the cast.  Lily James and Sam Riley make a great Elizabeth Bennett and "Colonel" Darcy, Lena Headley as zombie slayer and eye-patch wearer, Lady Catherine De Bourg, comes close to stealing the film but the real thief of "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" is, of course, Matt Smith as Parson Collins.

Matt Smith really does steal every single scene he's in - his Parson Collins is just hysterically funny.  So much so that, following a dramatic and quite stunning martial arts contest between Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy, culminating in Elizabeth sitting in a chair and crying, the group of people in the row behind us at the cinema immediately started chuckling when Parson Collins was spied passing the window.  Thankfully, the character of Parson Collins and his storyline is one of those areas where they veer away quite dramatically from the book - and I, for one, am hugely relieved for that.

It's very hard to categorise "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" - is a comedy?  A drama? A horror?  A romance?  Actually, it's pretty much all of them - and it works brilliantly.  I think it's been classified as a "horror-comedy" which is fine...however...there's not exactly a huge amount of gore.  For a film with zombies, it's surprisingly light on the more bloody kind of horror - and that was a disappointment for me.  Probably the only disappointing part of the film but a disappointment nonetheless.

It really is crying out for a sequel - however ... it's not exactly doing brilliantly at the box office.  In fact, some cinemas in the UK have started to pull it already.  See it as soon as you can - or you will miss your chance.

Rating - 8/10 (it lost 2 points for the lack of "bloody" horror...)