Sunday, 7 February 2016

Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

World of Blackout Film Review

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Poster

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Cert: 15 / 108 mins / Dir. Burr Steers / Trailer
WoB Rating: 5/7

Establishment-setup-reveal-punchline. Imagine, if you will, taking a recurring sketch from a weekly comedy show. For example, Lou and Andy from Little Britain. The sketch (pretty much any of them) is indeed funny in isolation, but it is formulaic. Establishment-setup-reveal-punchline. And that's fine, because that's how comedy works. Now imagine taking the Lou and Andy sketch from each of the eighteen series-episodes of Little Britain and playing them in continuous succession. Establishment-setup-reveal-punchline. Rinse and repeat.

That's why I gave up on the novel of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. A quiet scene would be eloquently and painstakingly set up, following which the arrival of a flesh-hungry ghoul would cause a catastrophic breakdown in etiquette and decorum as we're shown that the elegant young heroines of the piece are actually trained and efficient zombie killers! Funny the first time, smirk-inducing the second. Still happening fifty pages in? Forget it.

The only reason I mention this is that I'd feared the cinematic adaptation would fall into the same trap (and logically, why wouldn't it?). After all, a novel which was written in all earnestness but which was received largely as a quirky oddity isn't necessarily going to translate well to the screen. There are already more than enough iffy zombie movies, and the ones which also employ humour in their arsenal are worse than most. So as it turns out, the "hahaa it's funny because they've got swords and they're cutting zombies heads off at a ball!" motif actually only accounts for the first thirty minutes or so of the film. Half an hour in which an actual story is desperately struggling to break through every cliché you're expecting from the film. Now obviously much of this comes from the fact that Pride and Prejudice is the primary source-material for the story, so the stilted, formalities of the original have to play a large part, and they have to be broken by the zombie-element. But it's still like watching the same sketch five times.

Then after a while, the forced juxtaposition of narrative styles relaxes and director Burr Steers is able to bring us something more like the film that the zombie-fans are wanting to see. While the primary undead-outbreak has already long-since occurred at the start of the film and is sketched in fairly loosely in an opening-title sequence, the main plot centres around a resurgence which threatens to over-run the surviving population of ninteenth-century England. Truth be told, even when the film actually gets going, the plot is still relatively loose, relying more on style and setpieces to do its work.

Thankfully, the whole thing is shored up with a very competent cast, headed marvellously by Lily James and Sam Riley as Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy, respectively. Younger players fill most of the main roles, and the film employs Charles Dance and Lena Heady to stand at the back and bring a bit of dramatic gravity to proceedings (although thankfully with a minimum of scenery-chewing). I should also mention how much I enjoyed Matt Smith as Mr Collins the Parson. It seems odd that in a film which relies so much on comedy, he's the only performer who seems to be able to deliver it fully.

Fans of Jane Austen will see this as a parodic curiosity, and fans of George Romero will doubtless feel the same way. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is ultimately its own worst enemy, and can't break free of one genre to adequately serve the other.

The film becomes a lot of fun, but can't take its tongue out of its cheek long enough to convince the audience it has anything worth saying…

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
Maybe it's the nature of the original source material, but even the addition of the undead doesn't make this particularly cinematic, no.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
Probably, but only just.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
No, but it was never really meant to be.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Not that I heard.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: P+P+Z stars that Charles Dance and that Lena Heady, both of whom appear in that Game of Thrones alongside that Gwendoline 'Phasma' Christie.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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