One of the opening lines in Burr Steers’ Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is, “Keep your swords as sharp as your wits”. That line perfectly characterizes PPZ. For those following at home, PPZ is an adaptation of a parody novel based on a Jane Austen classic.
The story takes place in an alternate reality where zombies roam throughout 19th century England. In this zombieverse, once a person is bitten by a zombie they have the disease but won’t turn full zombie until they’ve ingested human brains. Everyone knows you never go full zombie. This allows zombies to hide in plain sight among the living and infect more people. Because of this, the undead are quickly outnumbering the living,
Despite the ongoing threat of zombies, the people in England live relatively normal lives. There are weddings, dinner parties, and plenty of fancy balls. And sometimes zombies show up and crash these parties.
Outside of Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley), an expert zombie hunter who dresses in all black with leather trench coat like he’s trapped in The Matrix, and the militia, the rest of the zombie fighters in this story are women. The Bennet sisters, led by Elizabeth (Lily James) are a group of women trained in deadly martial arts, weapons, hand-to-hand combat, and any other way you can think to kill a zombie.
Mrs. Bennet is intent on having her daughters married to men of good standing. Jane Bennet (Bella Heathcote) catches the eye of a wealthy bachelor named Mr. Bingley (Douglas Booth). Jane and Bingley’s relationship forces Elizabeth to cross paths with Mr. Darcy, and the two find themselves immersed in the ongoing battle of man vs. zombie.
Just as the opening line states, PPZ has plenty swords and wit – the story does an impressive job of balancing gut splattering zombie kills, comedy, and classic literature. A lot of that comedy comes courtesy of Matt Smith (Doctor Who) who plays the overconfident Parson Collins – the heir to the Bennet estate who makes many attempts to wed Elizabeth.
Every zombie movie needs a strong protagonist aka someone you don’t want to see get their brains eaten. Lily James, most known for her role as Cinderella, delivers that strong performance as Elizabeth. What makes Elizabeth a great character is how unapologetically tough she is. She’s never the damsel in distress or in need of rescuing. She’s bringing the fight to the zombies any way she can.
PPZ is exactly what you’d expect in a story that blends pride and prejudice and zombies. It’s as ridiculous as its title in the most entertaining way imaginable. There are plenty of nods to the Jane Austen novel to make your grandmother smile and plenty of zombies to make her get up and leave theater. PPZ is like chicken and waffles. You never know what goes good together until you try it. Who knew zombie remixing a classic novel would work so well as a movie? It worked, it worked very well.