Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2 stars)

Period drama becomes period horror in this odd blend, starring Lily James and Sam Riley

Jane Austen’s classic gets the big screen treatment once more – this time with added horror. Adapting Seth Grahame-Smith’s parody novel, American writer-director Burr Steers (Charlie St Cloud, 17 Again) retells the story of Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters in Regency era England, which just so happens to be afflicted by a plague of the undead. If that sounds like a bizarre idea, the story is more faithful than you might imagine, with the militia camps seen in the backdrop of Austen’s tale here present to fight the zombie hordes.

Elizabeth (Lily James) is the same fiercely independent heroine Austen crafted, only with added fighting skills (learned from her time in China, apparently). Mr Darcy (Sam Riley) is similarly just as aloof as ever, even if he’s now preoccupied with rooting out zombies – or the ‘manky dreadfuls’, as they’re called here, who seem to be able to hide within the population. As in the original, Elizabeth and Darcy get under each other’s skin, battle against their feelings and eventually come together, albeit with the infamous proposal scene now retooled as a full-on fight between the two.

It’s a curious mix, truth be told, and not entirely successful. The Bennet sisters (including Bella Heathcote and Suki Waterhouse) are fun to watch, Sally Phillips is a hoot as their mother, Matt Smith has a ball as the effete Parson Collins and Riley makes Darcy his own. But, while they would be more than competent in a straight-laced Austen adaptation, it all rather jars with the presence of the zombies, which are reasonably crafted using prosthetics and CGI, but neither particularly scary nor especially comic, getting in the way of what is a half-decent take on the original story. Unfortunately, for the most part, it feels like the Sleepwalking Dead.

General release from Thu 11 Feb.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

  • 2 stars
  • 2016
  • US
  • 1h 48min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Burr Steers
  • Cast: Lily James, Sam Riley, Bella Heathcote, Matt Smith, Emma Greenwell
  • UK release: 11 February 2016

Elizabeth Bennet (James) and her sisters live in Regency England, which is experiencing a plague of the undead; luckily she has fighting skills learned in China (eh?). James, Riley as Mr Darcy and the rest are all good fun, but it feels like a decent Austen adaptation weighed down with superfluous zombies.