Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Aside from providing Seth Grahame-Smith with a career (and thus rather underlining the crux of the complaint) there seems to have been very little point to his genre mash-ups. While I wouldn’t enthusiastically support magpie running towards creatively barren terrain the way he (or Max Landis) tends to, there is potential for having good fun with the clash of elements, particularly in this case. And, with Burr “Igby Goes Down” Steers adapting and calling the shots, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies ought to have been a given. So it’s a shame that, by and large, it’s a bore.
Burr’s no action guy, which explains the pedestrian colour-wash cinematography and unengaging fight scenes. Occasionally, just occasionally, he wrings something from the material that almost works. The fight between Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) and Mr Darcy (Sam Riley) as they exchange Austen dialogue is well conceived and edited, and almost – but not quite – makes up for the sub-Buffy super-trained kick-ass chicks doing their zombie kung fu (as in, it’s dull-witted, and hasn’t been “cool” since the turn of the millennium).
And coming out best of the cast is easily Matt Smith as bumbling Parson Collins, reminding you of why he was a good choice for Doctor Who in the first place, before being swiftly undone by terrible dialogue and naff character choices; he’s a natural comic performer, and shines here, elevating the movie whenever he’s on screen (“Oh, is there some sort of trouble? Oh, it appears there is?”; hopelessly inept at fighting zombies, he appeals far more than the characters who do so ever-so blandly and heroically).
Sam Riley also does well, essaying the acid-tongued curmudgeon in agreeable fashion; if ever that never-to-be Blake’s 7 reboot gets off the ground, he’s a shoe-in for Avon. James makes little impression (is that Lily James or Lily Collins?). Meanwhile, Jack Huston is so ineffectual, he seems entirely intent on ensuring his star turn in Boardwalk Empire goes down as a one-off; his villain isn’t even hissably one-note. Elsewhere, there’s support from Sally Phillips (amusingly annoying) Lena Headey (predictably stony-faced) and Charles Dance (very Dance-y).
What this really needed was the Peter Jackson of Brain Dead/Bad Taste unleashed on it, relishing gallons of blood and dismembered bodies in bodices, but with the added attraction of Hammer Horror countryside. Instead, it’s fairly easy to forget there are any zombies in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (it mustered a 15 certificate in the UK, but hardly justifies the rating). There’s a nice animated introduction using cut-outs, but that’s about as far as things go; Steers fails to conjure an ounce of atmosphere or tension, or sufficient winningly gruesome laughs.