Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Pride And Prejudice And Zombies (15)

It's a truth rarely acknowledged that a classic of English literature must be in need of some zombies.

And I'm sure I'm not the only one who approached Seth Graham-Smith's reimagining of Jane Austen's with a certain amount of caution.

But it was fun. Hilarious fun. And pitched perfectly, with the voice and tone of the original shining through as the manky dreadfuls ran riot.

But could the film match this?

Could the film capture the feel and tone of a period drama, the characters of many a loved film adaption, and still get away with the undead gathering at the gates?


From the opening scenes of stately homes, barricades and security guards you know - odd as it sounds - that you are in the right era.

And as Mr Darcy enters the room to check for any undead and partake in a quick game of cards, the costumes and dialogue confirm what you hoped - the book has been brought to life well.

The tone, like the book, is at once reverential and irreverent.

The characters we all know, and the cast bring the Bennet family, Mr Darcy, Parson Collins and Mr Wickham to life.

This is no mean feat, given the films that have gone before - with Sam Riley in particular making the role of Darcy his own.

Intertwining visual horror with the more sedate world of the Bennets was never going to be easy, but writer/director Burr Steers pulls it off with aplomb.

In particular, he makes the fight scenes - and the training scenes - sing.

And hurt, too.

Once upon a time, a man called Zack Snyder attempted to make a film where girls in school uniform went about fighting and shooting stuff.

Sounds simple, and should have been fun.

Instead you got one of the dullest films known to man.

This. This is what he was trying to achieve.

But there's no sexualisation here.

Yes, bits of it are sexed up - in particular when Elizabeth and Jane are getting dressed for the ball - but there's a world of difference between what Steers achieves and Snyder ended up with.

And man, those fight scenes are good.

Austen has long been praised for writing strong female characters, and Steers has put exactly that on the screen.

Lily James (Elizabeth) and Bella Heathcote (Jane) lead the charge as the sisters show exactly what women can do with a sword and a gun.

And it's brutal.

The camera doesn't shy away from the slaughter, and you're able to feel ever stab, every thrust, and blow as the undead hoard fall under their well-heeled boots.

In fact, the squishing of the dead is almost as much fun as the lighter moments.

And there are a lot of lighter moments.

Matt Smith as Parson Collins and Sally Phillips as Mrs Bennet both bring perfect comic timing and understated, measured performances to proceedings - keeping the tone suitably light, yet never frothy.

But this isn't all fun and splattered heads.

There's a twist in the original tale, with Wickham's character taken in a slightly different direction leading to a gripping final third.

And grip it does.

It also allows the film - and, by association, the book - to stand on it's own two feet.

This could easily be passed off as a bit of fan fiction that got lucky, but the book was very well written and the film can stand proudly alongside both the period dramas and the horror films it so clearly loves.

If there is one major quibble, it's the term "Manky Dreadfuls".

A phrase that leapt off the page and made the reader grin and laugh is reduced here to one passing reference.

And, yes, within the context of the film it matters not a jot - the film survives just fine with the myriad terms for zombie that are unearthed.

But as an adaptation, and for fans of the book, it's a misfire. It should have been there from the start.

Still, no matter. It's personal pickyness more than anything.

Leaving that aside - and I don't doubt many of you will - the film is a joyous riot of corsets, bonnets, blood, brains, swords and balls.

It's got drama, violence, comedy, guts, romance, severed limbs, horses, twists, cliffhangers and massive explosions.

It's what all good costume dramas should have.

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