I saw it before you did! Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
When I first started this blog, I had vague (and probably unfounded) dreams of becoming a Big Deal. Like, people would listen to me and value my opinion and send me free stuff and then I’d become a Nerd Celebrity and play D&D with Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day and it would be rad.
So, uh, I’ll let you know when that happens.
However, I at least get to play intarweb journalist tonight, as I just caught a sneak preview of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which comes out this Friday. I snagged some free passes at a trivia night I went to a little while back, and now, well, here we are. It wasn’t officially a press pass, but hey, I’ll take what I can get. It was kinda funny, though, as the theater had a strict ‘no phones’ policy for the preview, complete with waving a little metal detector wand at people. Secrecy!
To be honest, it was a good thing this was a free pass, as I honestly wasn’t planning on seeing Pride and Prejudice and Zombies in the theater to begin with. A couple years ago, I tried reading the book … and gave up about two thirds in (if that). While I was reading the book, I found myself enjoying the Jane Austen segments much, much more than Seth Grahame-Smith’s. It wasn’t surprising, considering Austen is one of the most famed and revered novelists in the English canon, where Grahame-Smith … isn’t. The zombie and ninja bits were just shoehorned in, to the point where they broke up the flow of the book.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has something of the opposite problem. The film is most interesting when it embraces the gonzo ‘Zombies and Jane Austen’ sensibility. The opening couple minutes are quite fun, with lots of cool visuals of a prim and proper period piece- surrounded by spiky wrought iron fences and cannons and stuff. That’s the whole point of a gonzo mash-up piece like this, after all.
Unfortunately, the movie can’t keep this up. Yes, there are zombies, and yes, Elizabeth Bennett is trained in zombie-killing kung fu. But after a somewhat promising start, there are long stretches of the movie where it looks like just another BBC period drama. It’s all filmed at various gorgeous English Manor Houses- I suppose they had strict rules not to get karo syrup all over everything.
If I had planned ahead, I would’ve picked one of said straight adaptations of Pride and Prejudice and done an Unfair Compare feature, but eh. I’m terrible and uncultured since most of my knowledge of Jane Austen comes from Hark! A Vagrant comics. (Kate Beacon, by the way, is amazing).
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies also suffers from a PG-13 rating. I may just be a horror snob, but I’m a big advocate of the R rating. I understand PG-13 movies are the ones that actually make money these days, but I couldn’t help but envision the film that could have been, in which actors in gorgeous Regency-style costumes were showered in absolute buckets of fake blood.
I mean, yes, there are zombies, and yes, Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy chop up a bunch of them with swords, but it never quite reaches the level of gory, gleeful insanity that feature in the best of zombie massacres. It’s a shame, too, as a lot of the zombie makeup is rather impressive- I bet the crew could’ve come up with some really gruesome bits if they had the chance. And on top of that, most of the fight choreography wasn’t all that impressive. Again, this may be my own bias showing through, because I’m even more of a kung fu movie snob than a horror snob. Hell, there’s a scene early on in the movie featuring an overturned cart full of lamp oil, and at no point does anybody blow it up. Wasted potential, people!
If nothing else, at least the cast seemed to be having a good time. Matt Smith’s Pastor Collins is a highlight, as he bumbles around and makes a thorough ass of himself whenever he’s on screen. I didn’t buy much into the romance between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy- but that might just be my own bias in thinking the Mr. Darcy’s a dick, but I digress.
Maybe it’s just ’cause I read I, Robot, but the film version of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies brings something a little new to the table, in that you could arguably apply a class-based critique to it. After all, all the important characters are various flavors of English Gentry, while the wretched, filthy zombies seem to be mostly of the lower classes. Eat the rich, indeed. Then again, that’s the kind of strained critique that you think of in your Junior Year English Literature class because you went and watched Pride and Prejudice and Zombies instead of reading the original Austen.
A quick look at wikipedia shows that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies strays pretty far from the source material, especially in the third act. Given the mutable nature of the mash-up novel (or mash-up movie, in this case), that kind of thing is to be expected.
If I had to rate the flick, I’d rate it firmly in the “C” category. It wasn’t quite as bad as I thought it was going to be, but at the same time, it didn’t do much to really wow me, either. If you’re somehow in the Venn diagram between “Austen fan” and “Horror fan,” check it out. Otherwise, just wait for a lazy day to catch it on Netflix or whatever.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got work to do. My basic wikipedia research tells me that most of these mash-up novels are based on non-American authors. I’ve got half a mind to butcher some Steinbeck. Of Mice and Mecha.
Seriously, that title writes itself.