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Did 'Pride and Prejudice' need zombies?
Bella Heathcote and Lily James in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016) - photo by Travis Poppleton
If theres an award out there for the most accurate title of the year, I suspect Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (PPZ) is the sure winner for 2016.

With the exception of the opening scene and maybe the last 25 minutes, PPZ plays out like a loose adaptation of Jane Austens original novel. The difference of course, is well, zombies. As characters move from one scene to another, theres an obligatory zombie fight. After some bloodshed, the story resumes like a proper Pride and Prejudice telling should, covering all the necessary plot points and favorite lines then, more zombies.

Thus the title, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

So does that work? Does Pride and Prejudice in anyway benefit from a zombie apocalypse backdrop?

Like always, lets chat about the highlights:

The Premise

We mostly covered the premise in the above intro, but for those who know nothing about Pride and Prejudice, PPZ follows the Bennet daughters and the many suitors who wish to marry them. The daughters we care most about are first Jane, the fairest she is pursued by the attractive and wealthy Mr. Bingley. And then theres Elizabeth, the protagonist, who endures multiple interested gentlemen throughout the course of the story, though we as an audience are waiting for one Mr. Darcy to come around.

With PPZ, characters are generally training for combat as they spin off the daily gossip, and proposal rejections sometimes include a physical confrontation that mirrors the tempo of the conversation, but on a high level the original beats remain. Even the most significant character alteration manages to tie back to the source material, though now it also justifies the zombie battles throughout the film.

The fun of it all

Lets get the biggest criticism out of the way, and then well chat a bit more about why zombie fans might actually want to matinee this.

Director Burr Steers made the really bizarre decision to take this premise seriously. Theres no real wink to the audience, the characters arent in anyway playful and with the exception of the first Bennet daughter zombie thrashing, there really isnt any style to the injected violence. I dont know if this decision was made because Steers respects Austens original material, but it seems like tacking on and Zombies to the end of your title is already a declaration of silliness that should be embraced.

If youre planning to see this because it sounds like good, cheeky fun, well, youll probably be a little disappointed. In fact, every line I remember getting a laugh from the audience was a direct quote form the original material.

Parson Collins

With my main gripe out of the way, lets talk about the films greatest strength Matt Smith.

Smith seems to be the only person involved who realizes dressing Austens material in horror garb probably wasnt a serious endeavor. Even as he plays one of the storys most obnoxious characters, Smith manages to sneak levity into each of his scenes making this the first version of Pride and Prejudice where you actually want Mr. Collins to become a member of the Bennet family. No, not because youd really wish that fate upon any of the daughters, but just in case theres a sequel. If box-office returns justify a franchise, audiences will want to make sure Smith is part of the package.

Is it scary?

There is maybe one moment throughout PPZ that some audience members might possibly classify as a jump scene, but it doesnt really come from a scare. In fact, I dont remember any place throughout the entire 1 hour 48 hour runtime that actually tried to be scary. It rarely even goes for spooky.

Theres plenty of slicing and bashing and gnawing and all that, but if youre hoping to get drawn into a creepy setting that stumbles through uncertainty before shouting Boo! well, theres none of that. I know I keep saying this, but this really is Pride and Prejudice, and then zombies.


It probably isnt any surprise that PPZ wont be winning over the critics. But, keep in the back of your mind that this is a movie called Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. What that means is, somewhere in the world theres a group of paying customers saying to themselves, You know what Jane Austens stories are missing? Women crushing zombie skulls with their heels.

I wont pretend to speak on behalf of that audience. When I say this movie takes itself way too seriously and probably shouldve never evolved past the what-if stage, I say that as a member of the population that didnt need to see Elizabeth Bennet as a sword-wielding zombie slayer.

If the title has you intrigued, go see for yourself if zombies go with Pride and Prejudice. At the very least, there are those Matt Smith scenes.

If the premise already sounds too out-there for you, or really, if youre even on the fence about this once, youre more than good to wait for a Red Box or Netflix night.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is rated PG-13 for violence, gore and brief suggestive material.
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