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June 2016

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

cast: Lily James, Sam Riley, Lena Headey, Matt Smith, and Douglas Booth

director: Burr Steers

108 minutes (15) 2016
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Lions Gate blu-ray region B
[released 27 June]

RATING: 7/10
review by Christopher Geary

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies

Offering much more than just cross-genre novelty (as its playful title suggests), and following the short movie also derived from a Quirk novel by Seth Grahame-Smith - who adapted Jane Austen's characters for the express purposes of rom-com horror, this feature is an obvious but welcome anglophile variation on the similarly-themed crossover fantasy actioner Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012).

Although this is, basically, just another Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! (aka: Strippers vs. Zombies) in posh frocks, Pride & Prejudice & Zombies does score quite highly as both comedy adventure with gory bits and a cod-historical romance, prompted by the formidable Colonel Darcy's visit to a house in Hertfordshire. The pop-up picture-book animated intro sets the scene, carefully establishing the movie's back-story within the context of an alternate-history. The multicultural twists resulting from this scenario are not unlike the mix of classy glamour and kung fu heroics we previously saw in such offbeat productions as Brotherhood Of The Wolf (2001).

"Lizzy, I forbid you!" says Charles Dance, as patriarch of the Bennet household's too-many daughters. Lena Headey (like Dance, also a Game Of Thrones veteran) is great fun as eye-patched warrior Lady Catherine. Like Catherine, Elizabeth (Lily James, Downton Abbey, Kenneth Branagh's Cinderella) and her siblings all have martial arts training (in Japan "for the wealthy" or China "for the wise"), which - even in a wholly postmodern milieu such as this - somehow never conflicts with the ladylike refinement usually expected of women in any modest society in days of yore and yesteryears. Contrary to familiar genre lore too, the undead here are tricky enough to lurk in roadside ambush and not just besiege fortified buildings like their shambling cousins from elsewhere in zombie-land.

With swordplay and duelling brought into prominence, the picture's moral questions remain based upon chastity and chivalry versus brain-eating hordes of ghouls. So, it's a b&w worldview in a colourful romp, and arguably the most fun version of Austen's classic P&P to date, as clever mix of costume drama and apocalyptic rom-com asides, with plenty of heroic feats of daring and proto-feminist class-war satire. Despite all of its blatantly contrived reformulation of an historical setting with genre concerns, and spoofy conceits, P&P&Z is far better entertainment than anticipated. It rises above its improbability and smugness to charm and thrill us like all the best versions of archetypal fairytales.



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