I have often thought: you know what this stuffy period drama needs? Monsters so that they can eat everyone and end the torture of watching aristocrats prance around with helpless ladies needing husbands so they can be in loveless marriages for the good of their families’ inheritance money. Suffice to say, I’m not a big fan of those types of movies. When I heard of the book Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, I was on board. I never actually read the novel but it sounded like a great idea to me and a fun way to make a dreary story a lot more interesting. The film version has been advertised for a few months and while I wasn’t blown away by the trailer, I was curious to see what the movie would bring to the table.
It’s a decent, if not outstanding film. The story basically revolves around a similar plot to Pride & Prejudice with a little twist of course. Five sisters in 19th century England are concerned with finding husbands so that their father can give them part of his wealth after he passes away (as he can not legally give it directly to his daughters in that time period). At the same time though, they all have weapons and fighting training to protect their family and themselves from zombies, who just happen to run amok throughout the countryside.
The film doesn’t get a whole lot more complicated than what I just typed. The thing that is holding back this film from being a real slam-dunk is that one gets the feeling while watching the film that the director/writers are never really going as far with this type of story as possible. There are moments of inspired lunacy (the zombie POV shots are pretty cool) but overall it felt like they could’ve done a lot more with this concept. That’s not to say the movie is bad either because the story is fairly fun and provides for some entertaining fight scenes as well as some amusing character moments. It should be noted as well that the female characters and the male characters basically switch stereotypes with each other except for a couple of characters here and there.
Acting is usually a strong element for a film like this and while it’s not perfect, there are some good choices here and there. Lily James is a pretty young British actress and is really good for a lead role like this. She is a strong leader and she has poise that makes her quite believable as a fierce warrior. Sam Riley as Mr. Darcy is okay but I always got the feeling that he was playing the part in a manner that was way too low-key. The rest of the sisters are fine but don’t really stand apart from each other. The highlight for me, other than James, is Matt Smith as the almost foppish character Parson Collins. His atempts to woo Lily are quite funny as is his general demeanour. I feel like this is a compliment to Smith because the character could have otherwise been forgettable like many of the other ones.
I feel like it’s time to rant about something. Movies like this need to go for an R-rating! A movie that takes place in 19th century England with fierce female warriors fending off the undead while attempting to land rich husbands should not be a toned-down PG-13 affair with a lack of blood and guts. That stuff should have been all over the place but instead we get shots that cut away after impact and it takes a lot away from a film like this.
There’s not a whole lot more to say. The costumes are great, the cinematography is acceptable except for a few cool shots here and there, the acting is pretty good, and the story is decent if not amazing. You’ll enjoy yourself; just don’t expect anything great.
* (Brutal; the worst rating)
** (Some elements keep it from being awful but still not very good)
*** (Completely watchable; a rental as old-timers might say)
**** (Great film with a few things here and there keeping it from being perfect)
***** (Flawless; a true achievement)