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Film Review: 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies'

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Annabelle (Jess Radomska) chewing her grandfather in Screen Gems' Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Burr Steers' Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is bold, gory, and you guessed it, filled with zombies. Based on the novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, who took the basis of the story from Jane Austen's novel, comes Steers' animated, innovative and snarky screenplay, which is a vast improvement from Grahame-Smith's butchering of the classic tale. Steers writes for a modern feminist audience, ready to route for the women in this story and laugh at the men who cower in the shadows of the ladies who are well trained in Asian combat.

The film kicks off with a bang, immediately throwing the audience into an alternative history of England where the undead have come to wreak havoc on the country, and the living desperately try to hold their own. Colonel Darcy (Sam Riley) is in the middle of the crazed battle going on in London, fighting alongside countless other men. Due to all that Darcy saw during the war against the undead, he has become a master at identifying such rotting imposters, who when they are first turned, can easily fit into everyday society. Darcy is a man on a mission, and almost comically, ready to kill anyone he fears may have been bitten. We view one of his tactics when he uses flies he keeps in a glass vial to discover a zombie in the midst of a party. 

Lily James, as Elizabeth Bennett, beams with lusty vehemence as she constantly whips out her sword or utilizes her combat skills flipping and kicking. In fact, all of the Bennett sisters (Bella Heathcote, Ellie Bamber, Millie Brady, Suki Waterhouse) carry small swords in scabbards that are placed in garters on their upper thighs, even though they are discriminated for having learned the Chinese art of combat and not the Japanese like everyone else. Oftentimes, Elizabeth and Darcy are fighting side by side and it seems as though Darcy may be the only man in this film who knows how to fight. It also helps that James and Riley have palpable sexual chemistry on screen. Lizzy and Darcy do more than exchange cold, harsh words in this film, by instead resorting to a more tangible and visceral means of communication--dueling.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Lily James and Bella Heathcote in Screen Gems' Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

The cast is having fun and the dialogue in particular is funny in and of itself. Parson Collins (Matt Smith of Doctor Who) is the comic relief in every one of his scenes. Whether he is speaking too loudly on the dance floor or escorting the young Bennett girls away from handsome men in town, he really is a delight to watch. The supporting cast is rounded out with Douglas Booth as the dreamy Mr. Bingley, Sally Phillips as the overbearing and paranoid Mrs. Bennett, Lena Headey (of Game of Thrones fame) as the most eminent Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and Jack Huston (American Hustle, The Longest Ride) as the seductive and zombie-loving George Wickham.  

It would be a crime to leave out the recognition of Remi Adefarasin's (Elizabeth, Matchpoint) skills as a cinematographer. The film does a successful job of keeping us on the edge of our seats due to the way it was shot. It alternately changes the way in which we see a zombie killed. In the opening sequence when Darcy slays a zombie, the audience is in the point of view of the zombie. Red fills the screen and the sound editors fill our ears with slashing and squishing noises, while we view the shocked faces all around a combative Darcy attacking the screen with a sword and knife. The zombie's demise is completely off screen. However, there are other times where we are startled by a more abrupt attack when a zombie's head is blown up with a shotgun, splattering blood and zombie remains everywhere. 

The film excels at juxtaposing the expectation of the stifled woman and the power women have in this alternative 18th century England. If you're looking for something funny and some zombie killings that would give the characters on Walking Dead a run for their money, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is the film you've been waiting for!

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