Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

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In an alternative history of sorts, 19th century England is in the grips of an undead epidemic, and two people must struggle to overcome the traditions of the day while fighting off the zombies that threaten to overrun their country. A zombified retelling of the literary classic Pride and Prejudice.

You know what I really want to see a zombified retelling of, The Cat in the Hat. I know, you think I’m just being silly, but think about it for a second. How cool would a Dr. Seuss book be if it was full of zombies? Not only would you get a zombie book with Dr. Seuss’ artwork, you’d get one with quirky rhymes as well. Dr. Seuss and the undead seem like a match made in heaven if you ask me, so the question comes as to which book would be the best. Ham and Green Eggs would be okay, but I don’t want to think about the backlash that would get when “Green Eggs” turned out to be rotting human flesh. Horton Hears a Who could work if you changed it to a Who attempting to warn Horton about the incoming zombie horde threatening to overwhelm the forest, but I don’t think the world is ready to see the military arm of the Who Nation (though how badass would it be to have a Whovian Ash, chainsaw hand and all). The best option, in my opinion anyhow, is The Cat in the Hat, a version where the titular cat comes in to help the kids prepare their home for a zombie apocalypse. Thing One and Thing Two could be combat trainers, the absent parents could be CDC employees, and The Cat could be a survivor that’s trying to stop others from befalling his fate after his entire village was slaughtered. Plus, after the Mike Myer’s travesty, short of urinating on a signed copy of the book, there’s nothing worse that can be done with the story. Someone get on this. I’d do it, but even my stick figures need work.

In a very different 19th century England, the country was nearly overrun by the undead thanks to a plague brought back from the colonies. This plague brought new life to the dead, giving them a nearly insatiable hunger for human brains; the more brains the undead consume, the more ferocious they become. This brought about the building of a giant wall around London and a huge moat further out, the area in between the wall and moat being called, well, the In-Between. In this world, we find people doing their best to get on with life as they know it, mixing their traditional values and social etiquettes with the business of surviving in a world where zombies are a very real danger. There is one danger the aging Mrs. Bennet fears above zombies though, she fears her daughters won’t be able to find a husband before their father passes away and his property is forfeit. In this regard, she encourages her daughter Jane to pursue the affections of the young, and very wealthy, Mr. Bingley. While Jane and Mr. Bingley develop genuine feelings of affection for one another, Jane’s older sister Elizabeth develops a very different set of feelings toward Mr. Bingley’s best friend Mr. Darcy, an experienced zombie slayer known throughout the country. She despises the man right from the very start, and he, though at first indifferent due mainly to her lower station in life, begins to warm up to the fiery Elizabeth. As everyone sorts out their feelings, a difficult task thanks to the social procedures of the time, a threat begins to rise in the form of zombie incursions that seem to intelligent for the standard zombie. Are these signs that the human defenses are weakening, or is something far more sinister taking place, something that could lead to the end of humankind?

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{It’s never the more sinister option…never…}

I’ve been meaning to read the book this film is based on for years, not the original Pride and Prejudice, but the version with zombies in it. The idea of taking classic tales and zombifying them has always appealed to me. When I was a kid, we had to read a lot of John Steinbeck one year thanks to an English teacher who worshiped the long dead author’s ability to put classrooms to sleep. The only way I managed to make it through Steinbeck’s endless, unnecessary descriptions of scenery was to imagine his characters dealing with the undead. Ever since then, I’ve had the habit of zombifying older tales in my head just for the fun of it, so Pride and Prejudice and Zombies seemed right up my ally. Two things ruined my desire to read it though, first was Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, that was just awful and made me rethink the whole fad. Second was the original book itself. I understand it’s a classic, and the book, as well as Jane Austen, deserve all the respect earned, but every time I’ve sat down to read it, I’ve always given up barely a quarter of the way through. There are a lot of classics I love, Call of the Wild and War of the Worlds are two of my favorites, but Pride and Prejudice bores me to tears, and I’ve never been able to finish it. That being said, I kind of wish I had read the zombified retelling of Jane Austen’s novel because despite the problems the cinematic adaption of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies had, and it definitely had some problems, I rather enjoyed this 19th century zombie film.

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{Guess I need to go hunt this down now}

One of the more interesting aspects of the film was the fight between the social norms of the time and the necessities brought about by a world where running into a zombie was not only a possibility, but to be expected. You have everything you could expect from 19th century, upper class society, so the etiquette that went with everything from how you eat to how you interact with others, class distinction that would make the Occupy Movement’s head explode, and a “women as property” mindset, but all mixed in with the requirements of survival in a zombie’s world. It was very well handled in how they spread it throughout the film, not making any of these changes to the timeline central, but always there in interesting ways. For example, in the world of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies people have taken to learning martial arts to better fight off the undead, the two main learning centers being China and Japan. The upper class makes a point of learning Japanese martial arts, believing the aesthetics of Japanese marital arts lend themselves better to the their high society lives. Chinese martial arts on the other hand are looked down upon as a tool of the lower class, who in turn find the wisdom of China to be more beneficial than the aesthetics the upper class find so appealing. Woman’s fancy dresses are created to look elegant while hiding weapons, mansions are surrounded by ornately designed walls designed to keep out the undead (load of good that it does), and having to kill a zombie is no excuse for bad manners. It was a well thought out and perfectly executed look at what life could have been like had 19th century etiquette run into ravenous zombies hell bent on consuming the living.

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{I can’t be the only one who thinks swords are sexy}

Speaking of the zombies, my sincere admiration goes to the makeup artists that worked on this flick because they look absolutely amazing. Rotted, torn up, and covered in wounds, the zombies were fantastic, and despite most of them being in such a sorry state, they still looked very human in that their human features were still very visible instead of being covered up in too much gore. My main problem with them had nothing to do with how they looked, but more to do with how all over the place their actions were. In the world of the movie, zombies lose more of themselves the more brains they ingest, so if they stay away from brains, they should be able to completely retain their humanity. The problem was that they were never consistent with how the process worked. One zombie could have eaten brains and still be perfectly able to carry on a conversation (yes, zombies talk in this movie) while another would eat brains and immediately become a mindless berserker. There was no formula other than whatever the filmmakers needed zombies to do at that moment. Beyond the lack of consistency, it also became confusing at times trying to remember which zombies were talkers and which ones were mindless, the constant back and forth throwing me off several times throughout. Though, this issue pales in comparison to the poorly laid out landscape that never made any sense. The zombies’ level of comprehension was hard enough to follow, but not being able to picture the landscape was much worse. London should be surrounded by a wall, then a wide open area called the In-Between where zombies and humans are forced to deal with one another, then a huge moat, but the way things play out during the film’s plot, it’s impossible to tell where the action is happening, where our characters are going, or where they are supposed to be. Furthermore, there are times that, based on the beginning description of the landscape, things don’t make sense, as in characters being where they shouldn’t or skipping entire sections of the land. A better laid out area would have done a lot of good toward making things clearer.

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{At least her hair still looks good}

Thankfully, despite the problems I had with the movie, I still really enjoyed it, in large part because of the characters and the actors they picked to play those characters. They saved much of the film, and I fully believe that without such interesting characters and great actors, I would have simply tuned out rather quickly. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies isn’t the greatest zombie film, but it’s definitely worth a onetime watch. Just don’t expect much Lena Headey, despite being top billed, she doesn’t have much of a part beyond a couple of minutes here and there.

 

The Undead Review

 

Directed By: Burr Steers (17 Again, Charlie St. Cloud)

Starring: Lily James (Cinderella, Wrath of the Titans), Sam Riley (Byzantium, Maleficent), Douglas Booth (Noah, Jupiter Ascending), Bella Heathcote (Dark Shadows, The Neon Demon), and Jack Huston (Outlander, American Hustle)

Written By: Burr Steers (How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Igby Goes Down), Seth Grahame-Smith (Zombified Novel), Jane Austen (Original Novel)

Released By: Sony, Screen Gems, and Lionsgate

Release Year: 2016

Release Type: Theatrical

MPAA Rating: PG-13

About The Undead Review

When I was alive I was an asshole and after I died remained pretty much the same, if not a little worse. You’d think becoming a member of the walking dead would mellow a person out, no more worrying about awkward small talk with people, no more having to be politically correct, and the entire world is your upright, bipedal buffet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun as hell to be a zombie, just somewhat irritating at times, especially those times you have to watch a lame movie or read a lame book. Thankfully, when I am forced to watch these films or read those books, I’ve got places like The Undead Review to bitch and moan to my heart’s content. {When he’s not devouring the living or sinking his teeth into a good film The Undead Review (Andy Taylor) spends his time writing his own stories or hunting down the paranormal. Oh, and did we mention his blind dog once saved the world?)
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