How do you make “Pride and Prejudice” exciting? Simple: add zombies. That was the secret ingredient in Seth Grahame-Smith’s bestselling mashup novel, which transformed the Jane Austen literary classic into a blood-stained farce. But while Hollywood was quick to snap up the film rights to “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” the project has had a long journey to the big screen, and not without reason. Though the genre hybrid is built around a silly but clever premise, it’s also incredibly niche, which begs the question: who exactly is this movie intended for? Teenage boys will be bored by the Regency-era romance, horror fans will bemoan the lack of gore, and although the feminist subtext is more pronounced, it’s not that different from the original story. In fact, despite the addition of “zombies” to the title, the film works better as an adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice” than the action comedy it strives to be.
Set in 19th century England, the movie follows the major beats of Austen’s novel, only this time around, a mysterious plague has swept across the country and turned many of its citizens into flesh-eating zombies, leading others to train in martial arts to protect themselves. The Bennet sisters – Elizabeth, Jane, Kitty, Lydia and Mary – are some of the fiercest warriors in Hertfordshire, but their mother (Emily Phillips) insists that they find a husband and settle down. So when wealthy bachelor Mr. Bingley (Douglas Booth) arrives in town with his curmudgeonly friend, Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley), Mrs. Bennet is overjoyed to discover that he’s taken a liking to her eldest daughter, Jane (Bella Heathcote). The headstrong Elizabeth (Lily James), meanwhile, refuses to be forced into marriage, but she meets her match in the equally stubborn Mr. Darcy, and together, they must put aside their differences to stop the zombie threat… and perhaps fall in love along the way.