Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a film that, understandably, has received some quite negative reviews. Zombie horror and period dramas are hardly the most natural of pairings, after all. Interestingly, however, most of the negative reviews I’ve read have been from horror fans, rather than lovers of period drama. My sister, who will watch pretty much anything that falls under the “period romance” category, loved it. Zombie horror purists, conversely, are not happy.
Half of this criticism comes from the perspective that the film doesn’t do enough with the fact that zombies are richly allegorical creatures, using them more as something zany and fun to spice up the film rather than to say anything meaningful. The rest of the criticism seems to be from people who are annoyed that these zombies can talk.
As someone who is a huge fan of both horror films and period dramas, I have to say that I loved Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Maybe that’s partially down to the fact that I didn’t go into the theatre expecting much, but either way, I had a great time. While I agree that the film definitely could have done more with the zombie element, using them to say something more about the heavily class-divided world of the film, I would also argue that getting too hung up about this would be to miss the point.
After all, surely no-one goes to see a film with a title like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies expecting anything more than an entertaining romp? Personally, I think critics are being far too harsh about the film because, somehow, they expected too much. After watching the trailer, what I anticipated was comedy, a little horror, and a lot of fun, and that was exactly what the film delivered. I wanted a heavily-armed Lizzie Bennet kicking the crap out of some zombies, and that was what I got.
Furthermore, I would argue that the film is actually a very good example of its genre. Period/fantasy/horror mashups have been quite popular in recent years, and as someone who has endured both Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters and Abraham Lincoln vs Zombies, I can tell you that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a masterpiece in comparison. As fun as these films can be in theory, they are easy to get very, very wrong. Relying solely on the wackiness of their concept and failing to deliver much in the way of laughs or scares is enough to ruin any good concept. The fact that this latest offering delivers on all fronts is not an achievement of the bare minimum, but actually quite impressive.
Speaking of impressive, the film’s cast alone is enough to recommend it. Lily James makes an absolutely wonderful Lizzie Bennet, even if, like many actresses before her, she is decidedly too pretty for the role. Sam Riley’s Mr Darcy has divided critics, but I thought that he did a brilliant job, putting those dark, brooding eyes and husky voice of his to good work. Douglas Booth is a charming Mr Bingley, and Lena Headey’s Lady Catherine, here England’s champion zombie hunter, is a joy to watch. I also really loved Sally Phillips’ turn as Mrs Bennet, a role which Phillips manages to make completely her own.
The standout performances for me, however, came from Matt Smith and Jack Huston. Smith’s Mr Collins is unquestionably the best I have ever seen, as well as the most riotously funny. Smith is a natural comedian, his facial expressions and comic timing never fail to hit the mark, and I distinctly remember the audience breaking into fits of laughter whenever he was on screen. For me, he was the best thing about the film, as well as, obviously, the funniest. I was also deeply impressed with Jack Huston, whose Mr Wickham is about as handsome and dastardly as they come.
Did I think that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was perfect? No, of course I didn’t. There were many elements I wish that it had built upon more, and I thought that Lena Headey’s Lady Catherine was criminally underused. Did I, however, have a great time watching it? One hundred percent yes – I had an absolute blast. And frankly, with a film like this, can you get a better recommendation?
Oh yeah, and I loved the talking zombies.