I should preface this review by stating that, as a general rule, I very much dislike zombie movies, zombies being the main type of horror-genre monster that actually frighten me. Those that fall more into the humor genre than the horror (such as Shaun of the Dead), have been more tolerable, but I do not usually seek them out.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was an exception to that rule, and I was glad of about 30 seconds into the movie.
(I should probably also preface the following by saying that I have read the original Pride and Prejudice and loved it, but have not seen any film versions of it. I have also not read the book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Cut for spoilers.)
There were, presumably, two main ways to approach this story. One would have been to take the original Pride and Prejudice story, and to drop a zombie outbreak into the middle of it. This would probably have involved a lot of screaming and general uselessness on the part of many of the characters (and especially the women), with a handful of the heroes managing to fight off the zombies with varying degrees of success and overall believability. This would not, in my opinion, have worked as a good story. I won’t say that no story-teller could ever make it work, but it would be difficult at best.
Fortunately, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies took the other main approach to this story, which was to drop the story of Pride and Prejudice into the middle of a long-term, ongoing zombie outbreak. This, at least for me, worked fantastically well as a story. It provides an alternate history for the whole of England (and, presumably, the rest of the world) leading up to that point in time, and that allows for some twists to the original story that can exist and make perfect sense because the whole culture in England has been irrevocably altered by this ongoing battle.
Many people are trained to fight, to one degree or another. Those with enough wealth go overseas, often to China or Japan, for training in weaponry and martial arts. This definitely includes both men and women, since you as an individual might encounter a zombie without anyone nearby to protect you…in which case you had best be able to protect yourself. It is expected that young ladies should know how to fight in this version of Regency England, and with a perfectly sensible explanation. When we first meet the Bennett family in this version, it is to find all of the girls gathered in their father’s study, cleaning and reassembling their firearms and making sure that their blades are sharpened, which was a truly fabulous way to introduce some of these major world changes.
There is a certain degree of ruthlessness that must be cultivated in everyone as well – if someone in your family has been bitten, then you must destroy them immediately, or risk yourself and the rest of your family being turned as well.
Other parts of the culture have adjusted too. I think the fashion stuck out the most for me: the girls still wear dresses and skirts, but in this universe it is perfectly acceptable for your ball gown to be slit up the front on both sides to mid-thigh, with thick stockings or leggings on underneath it. This gives the women needed maneuverability in a fight, and easy access to the weapons strapped to their legs. Lady Catherine simply wears trousers, although that does seem to be due in part to the fact that, as England’s premier zombie-killer, she is rich and powerful enough to ignore whatever parts of current fashion she finds dangerous or inconvenient.
Within these changes, however, the characters remain very much true to their original incarnation. The story is necessarily shortened from the original (especially for this movie; I don’t know how the P&P&Z book compares in length), but I thought that they did a good job of keeping the important parts while shortening the things that could reasonably be shortened.
Wickham is, of course, still the villain, though he has greater scope for doing evil and causing damage in this version. It is no longer simply Elizabeth’s younger sister’s virtue and reputation at stake, but rather the fate of England itself. There is an apocalyptic tone to the zombie invasion as a whole, and the name of the Antichrist is invoked…and while we do not get a solid answer as to whether or not Wickham is actually filling that role, it does not seem unlikely either.
The ending is definitely set up for a sequel to follow. I’m not sure how that will go (since otherwise this one ends with the same two happy weddings as the original P&P), but I think I will be willing to at least give it a try. I very much enjoyed this one, and would recommend it to fans of Pride and Prejudice who can handle zombies and a certain degree of gore (I would not call the gore excessive, but rather typical of a zombie movie), or to fans of zombie movies that lean more towards humor than horror. This will, in all probability, be the only zombie movie that I ever actually own myself – and coming from me, that is probably the strongest recommendation that I can give it!