The pitch for this novelty horror/action/romantic comedy satire must have been intriguing: an absurdly quirky, comedic reimagining of Jane Austen’s classic tale of tangled relationships between lovers from different social classes in 19th century England. “It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains,” says spirited Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James), explaining the mysterious plague that has beset Hertfordshire. So she and her four marriageable sisters are masters of Chinese martial arts. Read on…
The beautiful eldest sister, decorous Jane (Bella Heathcote), immediately catches the eye of eligible Mr. Bingley (Douglas Booth), while strong, confident Elizabeth spars with perpetually brooding Col. Fitzwilliam Darcy (Sam Riley), a snobbish, yet renowned zombie killer.
As the zombie infestation increases, Elizabeth accuses Darcy: “You are as unfeeling as the undead.”
Inevitably, they must band together to vanquish the decomposing ghouls from the land, including an (underdeveloped) image of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
In the opening sequence, as the Bennet sisters (including Suki Waterhouse, Ellie Bamber and Millie Brady) slip weaponry into the garters of their Regency-era finery, writer/director Burr Steers (“Igby Goes Down,” “17 Again”) sets a playful, cheeky, girl-power tone – which fades all-too-soon.
Based on Seth Grahame-Smith’s bestselling 2009 novel of the same name, the result is neither funny enough nor scary enough. Worst of all, the walking dead gimmick grows tedious and tiresome.
FYI: “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” was an adaptation of another Seth Grahame-Smith novel.
Charles Dance and Sally Phillips play the Bennet parents, while Matt Smith (TV’s “Doctor Who”) adds amusement as prissy Parson Collins. Jack Huston is dastardly as Mr. Wickham, and Lena Headley glowers as Darcy’s Amazonian warrior aunt, Lady Catherine de Bough.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” is a feebly fanciful 5, and a post-credit scene suggests there may a sequel.