A rider on a black horse charges across a bridge, an English landscape, and past a fortified gate, black cape flying. A woman narrates, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains. Never was this truth more plain, than in the recent attacks at Netherfield Park in which an entire household was slaughtered by a horde of the living dead during a host party.”
The horse rider is not Batman. It’s Col. Mark Darcy (Sam Riley), a zealous zombie slayer. He enters a plush drawing room where members of civilised society are seated in groups, playing cards. He’s received a report that someone has been “bitten”. But there hasn’t been a report of someone being bitten in Hertfordshire for years, a woman argues. Darcy, a fierce look in his eyes, explains that a newly infected zombie is nearly impossible to detect until it’s consumed its first human brains, after which the transformation accelerates with every subsequent kill.
The comedy horror, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (based on the 2009 bestselling novel) is set in 19th century England, the time of Jane Austen, except this world is infected by a zombie plague that has killed millions just to resurrect them as undead, murderous pieces of rotting flesh. The Bennett family, and the beloved Austen heroine, Elizabeth (Lily James), face the same problems as they do in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: the threat of poverty if eligible marriages aren’t made, be they loveless or not. But, the five Bennett sisters not only have to try and find husbands, but must be warriors, prepared to face of hordes with melting faces and ravenous appetites. Instead of embroidery or playing piano, these young women charmingly spend their time oiling pistols and sharpening knives. They’ve all been trained in the art of war. In China.
Anyone who knows me, knows I. Can’t. Stand. Zombie. Movies. If a supernatural undead being is going to be hunting you, it may as well be a vampire or werewolf, that has the ability to think, not simply chase, grunt, and chow. But Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is enjoyable purely because it’s so ridiculous and doesn’t take itself seriously. The scenes in which the women with their bonnets and gloves and ribbons, pull weapons from underneath their pretty lace frocks to fight off the monsters is as funny as it is preposterous. Not witty, just silly, but entertaining nonetheless.
Lizzie is still the feisty and defiant heroine, she’s just able to roundhouse kick a lot better. “Zombies or no zombies, all women must think of marriage Lizzie,” her friend whispers at the ball where she meets the arrogant Darcy for the first time. “I shall never relinquish my sword for a ring,” she vows. “For the right man, you would,” her friend replies. “The right man wouldn’t ask me to.” Ah, a feminist zombie fighter.
Honestly though, this film is surprising – I was wholly prepared to write a bad review. The only other zombie film that’s not put me to sleep is that other wonderful spoof, Zombieland. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies isn’t quite as clever, but is tongue-in-cheek enough for a recommendation to those who not only like the Jane Austen classic, but enjoy a bit of mindless, not-unpleasant fun as well.
Director: Burr Steers
Cast: Lily James, Sam Riley
Rating: 3½ out of 5
SA release date: 01 April 2016