I never finished reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Though I was intrigued by the concept of placing zombie tropes in a Victorian setting, I didn’t find that the novel ever found a footing beyond its titular joke, at least not in the hundred or so pages I read before getting bored. This didn’t give me high hopes when I heard that the tortured six year production cycle of the movie adaptation had finally churned out its obligatory final product years after The Walking Dead became the only piece of zombie pop culture ephemera to retain any popularity. And alas, the resulting film was even worse than I had expected.
See, in theory, the running juxtaposition of English high society with the brutality of braining hordes of the undead should work better in a visual medium, as there is a lot more potential for physical comedy and absurdist winks to the camera that don’t require the characters to break the fourth wall in order to explain the joke. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies completely misses that opportunity by playing most of the Pride and Prejudice and even most of the Zombies completely straight, almost as if this was two incomplete films that were mashed together in order to somehow bring them to market. There are exceptions, most notably in the first half hour when the lore of the film’s alternate history is being established, but the two genres remain strangely divorced for a mash-up, leaving what is ostensibly a comedic film with very few laughs or even attempts at making us laugh.
The Victorian romance of Jane Austen’s novel is more or less intact, which actually works wonders to this film’s detriment. No one going to see this film is looking for a serious portrayal of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy; they could just see one of the many adaptations of the original novel for that. The actors are all pretty half-hearted in their attempts as well, with a noted exception of Matt Smith as an eccentrically needy Mr. Collins, but he rather bizarrely functions as comic relief in a film that is premised on comedic action as its selling point.
The zombie action scenes are similarly half-assed, presumably out of fidelity toward keeping the film at a PG-13 rating. Almost none of the zombie kills make their way on screen, and the ones that do are remarkably tame and bloodless. This leads to a bizarre method of fight cinematography where we see our protagonists waving their limbs most dramatically and constantly connecting to something off-screen so that even the banal catharsis of mindless violence is denied to the audience. And this is a shame, because even though the zombie lore of this film is actually somewhat interesting, with zombies that can seemingly articulate and speak as well as the members of high society they once were, the extent and ramifications of that lore are left largely unexplored in the hope that this film will spawn a franchise. The mindless violence would have at least given me something fun to focus on while the film spun its wheels.
And that right there is why this film is so atrocious: it isn’t fun. In fact, it’s really quite boring, much more boring than any film with the title Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has any right to be. A friend that joined me for the screening joked with me that we had seen one of the worst films of 2016 before the year had even began, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I still felt that way a year from now. This is a painfully dull film to sit through, and were it not for my commitment to these reviews I probably would have left long before the credits. When this hits theaters in two months, do not spend your money and let this be the flop it deserves to be.