The action-horror period-piece comedy-adventure that no one asked for.
A Black Plague turns into a zombie apocalypse across the English countryside in this 19th-century comedy drama! The five Bennet sisters — Elizabeth (Lily James), Jane (Bella Heathcoate), Kitty (Suki Waterhouse), Lydia (Ellie Bamber), and Mary (Millie Brady) — must deal with being marriage-eligible in a land with a dwindling population… never mind being expertly trained by their father (Charles Dance) in the deadly arts of close-quarters combat. When the dead attack a grand ball being thrown at nearby Bingley Manor, Colonel Darcy (Sam Riley) is smitten by Elizabeth’s skill as she and her sisters methodically dispatch the zombies, but Elizabeth finds her admirer arrogant and unworthy. She later meets Mr. Wickham (Jack Huston), a soldier with a sour history with Mr. Darcy; while she finds him charming — especially his convictions that not all of the dead are savage — there are bigger things in motion for her than a mere choice between two suitors.
Zombies are the new vampires right? From author Seth Grahame-Smith who gave us guilty-pleasure Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter comes a unique take on the Jane Austen classic — with Jane herself earning a co-author credit… well done, ma’am! It’s not possible anyone could take this seriously, but the gag is that the more serious it looks on-screen, the more entertaining it is. Couple in Matt Smith as Parson Collins in a decidedly non-Time Lord role and it looks like an entertaining romp… but how good or bad could it be?
If absurdist parodies taken seriously by storytellers are your thing — think 1960s “Batman” but less cartoony — you can’t go wrong with here. The dead are quick and vicious, the defenders incredible in their attacks, and the cinematics wonderful. As of this writing, however, it was a box office bomb, not even coming close to making back its modest budget, and that’s a shame. Horror fans who don’t mind mixing in a bit of classic literature or anyone who thought Jane Austen books were boring in school, this is exactly the kind of thing you’ll enjoy. While not as anachronistic and reinterpreted as Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet (which kept the original Shakespearean prose while embracing stylized theatrical interpretations), PPZ plays like a classic period piece except zombies are a threat and future housewives know martial arts.
Taking a chance with this clever camp will reward you with scenes such as delicate women readying for a ball while secretly arming themselves to the teeth, choreographed siblings making short work of the dead in ways that would make Jackie Chan smile, and group makeup effects that looks like someone mashed up a Zombie 5K with a Renaissance faire. It shouldn’t work, but by sheer force of will and a game cast of actors, it’s wonderful.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is PG-13 and gets away with as much as they can squeeze out of it; about the only thing an R-rating could have added was a little nudity and a few f-bombs. Of course, if you don’t like zombies, Jane Austen, frock flicks, romance, horror, combat sequences, or gruesome murders, don’t worry: there’ll be a new animated family film you can take your family to out in theaters soon enough.
3 Skull Recommendation Out of Four