Dead On Arrival: Pride And Prejudice And Zombies Reviewed
Essentially a so-so idea for a sketch that's gotten completely out of control, the only question that really matters about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is: is there anything to it beyond what you’d imagine from the title?
Sadly, the answer is no. After the first five minutes this feels strung out, but then it goes on and on, hammering the same joke home for the better part of two hours. Look — they're in period costume! But they're stamping on the faces of the living dead! (Pause here for a laugh that will never come.)
It could have been fun perhaps, if it had revelled in its own absurdity a bit more, but the po-faced directing and overly earnest young cast combine to make sitting through it feel like a definite slog.
You do get zombies and you do get bits of faux-Austen, though the former are toothless and the latter largely witless. And only occasionally do they mesh together and elevate the material above what it feels like for the most part, which is a Made In Chelsea Halloween special.
Lacking any clear ideas about how to satirise the tired tropes of period drama or the horror genre (or indeed anything more worthwhile in life), the filmmakers instead decide to lavish money on the production design. So we get pretty actors, lovely lighting, great costumes, nice visual effects and impressive hair and make-up. All of which are vaguely diverting until you sense that it serves one cold-hearted primary purpose: selling the film overseas — to Asia especially judging by the oblique and unfunny references to cut-price martial arts training the Bennet girls have undergone abroad.
The cast is photogenic but mostly an anodyne bunch. Lily James leads the pack as Elizabeth giving it all the stage school welly she can muster, but she looks like she would much rather be doing straight P&P without any of the Zzz. Elsewhere, Sam Riley as Darcy is alright, his voice sounds like an eletrolarynx and they’ve done him up like a creaking gestapo officer, but as his character is soon forced to follow the same old beats of the original story, his presence quickly palls. As does Matt Smith as Parson Collins and Sally Phillips as Mrs Bennet, the only two who seem to realise they are in a comedy and actually go looking for laughs. They find some, but the surrounding stodge soon swallows them up.
If only someone like Paul Verhoeven with a truly wicked sense of humour had been in charge instead of the overly fussy Burr Steers. Maybe he would have gleefully given us what this film so badly needs — a few of the dullards in the starring roles to get put through the mincer, rather than hanging onto them for the sequel: Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (really) that is no doubt already being prepped. Be afraid, but not really afraid.
Pride And Prejudice And Zombies is in cinemas from today.
Last Updated 12 February 2016