Zombies camp up a Jane Austen classic

Joseph Cardenas/Contributing Writer

Seth Grahame-Smith struck gold upon the release of a quirk book classic. The campy, yet fancy, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” has been more than well received as a novel that pays homage to Jane Austen, the author of “Pride and Prejudice.” In April 2009, the book about a zombie apocalypse during the Victorian age, took the world by storm for its use and manipulation of Jane Austen’s own original writing to preserve its story and integrity while still adding in everything we expect from a story about brain-eating zombies.


A film adaptation graced the silver screen in what most would assume would be the worst zombie film of the century. It’s true: seldom do we have a zombie movie that isn’t so campy it makes everyone cringe. However, this film, directed by Burr Steers, who also directed “Charlie St. Cloud”and “17 Again”, does everything right.


It could’ve been a pure romantic tragedy we’ve all seen before. It could’ve been the grossest  cliché since “Nightmare on Elm Street” when Freddy Kreuger slaughtered Johnny Depp in an explosion of blood. Surprisingly, it was both, but it accomplished all of this with style that not most camp films have. The movie was fun to watch – an unregrettable adventure from start to finish. Knowing nothing of great literature won’t change how you experience this film either.


“I like zombies, and I love ‘Pride & Prejudice,’” Jordan Cline, a freshman at FIU, said at a screening of the film, “so, putting them together was a good mix.”


“The fact that you’ve got zombies in your world blows the whole thing open,” Douglas Booth, who plays Charles Bingley, said in a roundtable interview with other college and high school newspapers at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, “anything is really possible.”


The roundtable interview, included Lily James, actress from “Downton Abbey” and “Cinderella,” who plays Elizabeth, and Matt Smith actor from “Doctor Who,” who plays Carson. The screening precluded it.


Both film and novel follow the story of Elizabeth Bennett, the second of five sisters. They are trained in martial arts and muskets by their father, who wants them to defend themselves in a world ravaged by the “dreadfuls” – as the undead are referred to often. While their mother wants them to marry suitable gentlemen, Elizabeth, is like most independent women in an otherworldly apocalypse. She is content with slicing zombies when they come calling.


“I wanted to be a really honest interpretation of Liz Bennett,” James said. “But then as soon as you put it in the setting of a zombie apocalypse it changes. Everything became heightened and much more about life and death. She became much fiercer and angrier because of that.”


As the events of Austen’s classic plays out – she is acquainted with the arrogant Colonel Fitzwilliam Darcy, who cares about defending the country from the threat of humanity’s destruction. His pride clouds him from seeing how he treats others; her prejudice misguides where she places her trust. But they reconcile and begin falling in love. However, there’s still the ever-looming threat of the four horsemen of the apocalypse and a literal army of zombies to worry about. Who’s on what side and are the undead capable to live? After all, it wouldn’t be a fun Jane Austen story without blood and an existential global doomsday in it.


“There is a central love story, and it’s important that we believe in that,” Matt Smith said, “but also it doesn’t take itself too seriously, which I think is important.”


That really was the most wonderful thing about the movie, that high-class society is somehow not lost amid a zombie apocalypse. It’s what makes it hilarious and earnest. The movie successfully takes Austen’s classic and turns it into a ridiculous camp horror without compromising the integrity of the original novel. It was “Pride & Prejudice”… with zombies.
The film also stars Sam Riley, from “Maleficent” and “On The Road,” and Lena Headey, from “Game of Thrones,” and is now playing in theaters. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, maybe a compromise for some old fashioned romance with blood and guts thrown in the mix, would make the perfect date night.

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