Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Classic Meets Monsters

PPZ Combined

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (PPZ) takes a classic piece of literature and gives it a modern horror twist by adding zombies to the story. While the 2016 movie is based on the 2009 book written by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, the result is an entirely different thing.

The book plot is essentially the same as the original Pride and Prejudice. The Bennett sisters are single women in want of husbands, and their mother is determined to find them each one. When the eldest sister, Jane, meets the well-to-do Mr. Bingley, she’s immediately smitten and so is he. The sparks between Jane’s sister, Elizabeth, and Bingley’s friend, Mr. Darcy, however, are not of the same sort. Elizabeth and Darcy go through a series of verbal sparring matches, letting their pride and prejudice get in the way of their chance at love.

Seth Grahame-Smith’s book edition adds zombies in the mix, and turns the Bennett sisters into skilled fighters. There are other minor changes, like at one point a verbal sparring match between Darcy and Elizabeth is turned into a physical fighting match, but overall the story of the PPZ book is much the same as the original novel there are just zombies in the world.

The PPZ movie, however, did what I wish the book had. The zombies become a crucial part of the story rather than just a world detail and minor complication. The premise for the PPZ movie is that zombies have taken over much of England except for a barricaded safe zone. Darcy is a Colonel in the war against the zombies, and a skilled fighter. The Bennett sisters have all been trained in Chinese martial arts and sword fighting, and are skilled fighters themselves. The fight against the zombies, and their growing numbers, is much more central to the plot of the movie and I think it works better than the zombie element in the book. The romantic plot of the movie follows much the same plot as the original book, with the exception of Wickham and Lydia.

I think the book PPZ is enjoyable because it’s essentially Pride and Prejudice just with the added elements of zombies. That being said, I found it annoying that the zombie element was not integrated into the plot more and that it seemed frivolous. I dislike things that aren’t essential to the story being thrown in. The PPZ movie, however, fixed that for me and did it in a way I enjoyed. The zombies aren’t just your typical walking dead, they’re an actively malevolent threat that leaves potential for a sequel. However, the movie did have issues of its own. If you can make it past the first thirty minutes (more details of issues below the spoiler tag), things do settle out and end up in a fun story, but there are some things to overlook to get there.

Overall, it’s worth the watch if you enjoy both zombie movies and Pride and Prejudice. Just be prepared for a mix of genres, and don’t hang your expectations too strongly on this being your typical Pride and Prejudice remake. By the end, I was ready to watch the second one (if it ever gets made), even though the beginning falters.

 

**** MOVIE SPOILERS BELOW ****

 

The biggest issue in the movie is the first thirty minutes. It’s clear the writers struggled with how to start this version of the story because it’s kind of all over the place tonally.

Tonally, there are some awkward moments that just don’t quite sit right. For example, early on there is a strange sexualized moment with Darcy and a doctor who is checking him over. Which I understand is supposed to foreshadow the doctor is not good at his job and has let an infected person into the house, but it isn’t blended well into the story. Plus, later on there are several moments where the Bennett sisters are getting ready for the party at Mr. Bingley’s when they are arming themselves that are also sexualized in the same odd way. While I didn’t mind that it was equal opportunity sexualization, it created a strange pause in the story and just didn’t blend smoothly. Then the sexual element would disappear and it’d feel like the storytelling shifted.

The tone problem continued early on when it came to humor as well. There were some great humorous moments – Matt Smith as Mr. Collins was wonderful – but they also weren’t blended in with the story well. They stuck out here and there like they were saying “this is supposed to be funny.” And while a lot of the moments were funny, they were also awkward at times and interrupted the story flow.

One moment specifically where I think it was meant to be humor but it just struck out for me, was when Darcy sees Elizabeth and the Bennett sisters fight the zombies at Mr. Bingley’s party. It goes from this big fight sequence to focusing on Darcy, and everything stops while he spouts this speech about Elizabeth and how he sees her differently now. Then it goes back to the action. I interpreted it as intending to be funny, but it felt instead like they paused the action movie to have an “Austen moment” and then hit play again. Which, could have been funny, but it almost didn’t feel deliberate which turned it into an awkward moment.

Once the story got going, however, things definitely balanced out and I felt like I could orient myself better in the story. The first thirty minutes just had me confused as I tried to figure out what type of story I was watching. That being said, I feel safe in saying that this is not an easy to classify movie. It’s not quite horror, not quite romance, not quite comedy… It definitely has some fun action moments, but it also doesn’t follow the typical action lines. It’s truly a crossover movie, and once you accept that while watching it becomes easier to stay with it. You just have to make it through the beginning and let yourself accept it as something new.

Honestly, I think this is the sort of movie that would really benefit from a dual viewing. The first to get oriented in the method of storytelling and cross-genre elements, and the second so you can just sit back an enjoy.

If the beginning was fixed, this would easily be a 4-4.5 Star movie for me, but as it stands, I can only give it:

3.5 Stars

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