This one’s a curio. This mash-up of genres gets caught somewhere in-between really; too irreverent to be a genuine period costume genre and too light to be a genuine zombie horror movie. Fans of Jane Austen likely feel it isn’t being sincere enough and fans of zombie flicks likely feel it isn’t gory or scary enough. Maybe that’s inevitable with mixing genre’s like this but I can imagine cinema-goers looking for a zombie horror would have been left bored and frustrated by the romantic costume drama and the Jane Austen fans would be horrified by the zombie stuff, leaving no-one particularly satisfied.
Based on a book by Seth Grahame-Smith, I would imagine the film’s problems are inherent in the source material – as Jane Austen is public domain I suppose it seemed a neat idea to use her material and sprinkle zombie thrills into it for sardonic wit. Perhaps it works better on the page, or is the idea itself simply better than the execution? In any case, I think the film-makers should have perhaps used the book as a springboard and then made it truly cinematic by making it a ‘real’ horror movie rather than the action-comedy that it actually is (I did think of Buffy the Vampire Slayer at times, it has that knowing, slightly irreverent tone).
But maybe that is the point. Zombies are daft- at least George Romero knew to not take them too seriously, and rather use them for some social commentary. Yes our culture does seem to have an unhealthy continuing fascination with zombie horrors, as evidenced by many movies and of course the long slow lingering death-crawl of The Walking Dead. But even when filmmakers take them seriously, its all clearly becoming something of a self-parody, so maybe Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is on the right track after all, and horror fans are wrong to be expecting any scares; the scares are all done.
Yet it is rather fun though, and I quite enjoyed it. The action scenes are well-staged and the gore pretty convincing, and of course the period costume drama is well-staged. Matt Smith in particular demonstrates a gift for comedy. For all its failings as a horror film, it at least injects some freshness to the awfully tired zombie genre. What I also found interesting was its alternate-history, using a period setting and giving it a genre spin. Whatever next, zombies of Christmas Past in A Christmas Carol? Great Expectations and Zombies?
Even better- War of the Worlds staged as the period drama that HG Wells wrote. Only when the Martian ships land they open up and hordes of martian zombies crawl out. I can see the tagline already : They don’t want our planet, only our brains.