First published in 1813, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is oft cited as one of the most notable examples of a “novel of manners”, a label given to stories intended to use the customs and mores of high society as the fuel for a satirical narrative that illuminates the absurdity of the codes the society follows. Austen’s novels, to one extent or another, are all examples of this genre.
First published in 2009, Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies isn’t oft cited as a notable example of anything… yet. It did, however, spark a few copycats who are also mashing up historical fiction with horror elements. While this may one day be looked back at at the novel that spawned a flourishing subgenre, it’s more likely to be a small footnote in the American horror landscape. Seth Grahame-Smith has gone on to become a successful film and television writer. His “novel of manners”/zombie slayer mashup was where his success really took off. The adaptation of this novel, his second historical fiction meets classic horror monsters book to be adapted to the screen (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter), was released on the big screens earlier this year to mixed reviews and poor box office numbers.
Now available on home video, the film has been able to gain a wider audience. Sadly, this didn’t do anything for its popularity; in fact, it’s overall ratings on all of the main film score aggregators actually went down. The lack of enthusiasm for the film is understandable, as the overall product does not live up to the potential of its premise nor the positive reviews of the novel. The lackluster film has very little star power nor any groundbreaking effects to boast. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is ultimately a forgettable and dull adaptation that follows suit with the previous Seth Grahame-Smith adaptation, the equally monotonous Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
Film fans that enjoy period pieces may find something in the wardrobes and sets that they can find some pleasure in, but very few others will find much to sink their teeth into. A few of the action sequences are well choreographed and well shot, but none are exceptional. The pacing is problematic and the horror elements are weak, at best. There is simply very little to point to as something the film really was able to do well. While there isn’t anything that is awful, a forgettable film is sometimes worse than a bad one.
It began with the Black Plague. Within weeks the dead began to rise, hunting for human flesh. Now the few of us that are left have only one way to survive, we must bring the fight to them. I’ve been training for this my whole life.
The conceit has a great deal of potential. The set up we are presented with is a story where we follow several ass kicking women dressed in fancy high society garb. There is an attempt at building some feminist ethos, but it doesn’t feel as if it ever achieves its goal. It sounds far more interesting than anything the audience is ever treated to on screen. The film’s lackluster story is accompanied by an original score from celebrated film composer Fernando Velázquez (The Orphanage, Crimson Peak). The soundtrack isn’t bad; but, much like everything about this film, it is forgettable. If the score had a better film to work with, it may have played better, but it is hard to determine based on hypotheticals.
In short, if the idea of Jane Austen and zombies interests you, it may be best to stick to the book and avoid this film. Or, if you must get you fill on screen, watch an episode of Downton Abbey and an episode of The Walking Dead back to back, you’ll enjoy yourself much more.