By James Hancock February 5th, 2016
To my surprise and delight I had just had an uproariously good time at the movie theater watching a movie that I had almost no interest in seeing at all. I never read Jane Austen’s 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice (in spite of being assigned the material several times in school) nor did I read Seth Grahame-Smith’s 2009 parody Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I had no idea what to expect from this movie except for what I saw in the one time I managed to catch the trailer. I went to see the film mostly because of the chance to see beautiful women kicking all kinds of ass on film, something I never grow tired of. On that front, the movie absolutely delivers. There’s something irresistible about seeing the English nobility, dressed in the full splendor of the fashions of the Regency Era, indulging in martial arts and wielding all manner of weapons in their ongoing war against hordes of undead. From what I’ve read, the novel incorporates a great deal of Austen’s plot and original dialogue and while I have no idea how much of that text made it into Burr Steers’s film adaptation, I have to say that the movie in a strange way has excited my curiosity about both Austen’s novel and Grahame-Smith’s parody. Perhaps that is a sad commentary on what it takes to get me to read a book, but there it is. The strangest part of watching this movie was realizing about halfway through the film that what had begun as a strange gimmick, a mashup of zombies and Jane Austen, had somehow managed to transcend the premise to become an engaging story in its own right. The only thing more ridiculous than the concept for this movie is that somehow it actually works delivering an entertaining story filled with gruesome horror and thrilling action.
By praising the movie to such a degree I’m likely killing the possibility of anyone enjoying the movie in the same way in that I went into the experience with nonexistent expectations and no preconceived notions about how the story would play out. The only negative side of the experience were my loathsome fellow audience members. There were only 4 other patrons in the theater, each of whom managed to be one of the most annoying moviegoers I have ever encountered. One kept swinging back and forth in his chair while talking to the screen, another kept receiving phone calls and leaving the theater to talk, a lost cause in the back corner kept snoring and appeared to have been camped out in the theater for days, and the last had the audacity to light up an E-cigarette before quickly putting it out. In spite of the near-constant distractions by people who deserve to be victims of their own miniature zombie apocalypse, I still managed to have a blast watching this movie. Unlike most interchangeable zombie stories that simply unleash a horde of undead on a locale and let the violence ensue, this movie actually tries to tell a story, one that involves cunning zombies capable of communication and asserting themselves as an undead aristocracy, the arrival of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and the added bonus of several love stories that I genuinely enjoyed following. The cast, one that includes Lily James, Sam Riley, Bella Heathcote, Charles Dance, Jack Huston, Matt Smith and Lena Headey, all deliver solid performances with a sincerity that prevents the absurd premise from spiraling out of control. So at the risk of overpraising a movie that is a very fun ride, but not much more, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies accomplishes the rare feat of injecting new ideas and dimensions into the one of the most tired of horror sub-genres, zombies. As a very vocal fan of zombie flicks who suffers from a recent pronounced case of zombie fatigue, it was a pleasure to see my interest in zombies officially brought back from the dead.
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