Pride & Prejudice & Zombies = Sure Why Not!

42

Okay, let’s get a few important things out of the way: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016) is not trying to be a faithful recreation of a Jane Austen novel, nor of the English Regency era. It is obviously supposed to be a fun mash-up of two different genres — classic Austen fiction and horror movies. That means that the film shouldn’t be taken the least bit seriously from the historical angle, OBVIOUSLY. I say all of this because at least one (if not more) people are going to turn up here and say, “Tsssk, don’t you know this is JUST FUN?” So to be clear: WE ARE AWARE.

With that giant caveat above, I should also add that I might not be the best person to review this, because I’m not a big horror fan! Okay, I do like a good creepy/suspenseful movie, but I don’t really like gore, and I plug my ears when the carnage gets loud. I am a wimp, I fully admit it!

Now, onwards to a review!

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (I am already sick of typing that long title) is an adaptation of a recent novel that mashed-up Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice with zombie/horror (spawning what seems likely to be increasingly less successful copies like Sense and Sensibility and Seamonsters or Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter). It was written by Seth Grahame-Smith and published in 2013. That’s all the background you’re going to get from me, because everyone who I know who has read it has said the same thing — that the best bits are the bits from Austen, and I’ve already read her novel multiple times.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Plot

In this alternate universe, sometime over the course of the 18th century, as British traders made connections with other lands further afield, zombieism (zombism?) was brought back to Britain. There’s a super cute opening scene showing you this background through toy theater-type images with narration … although I’d like to point out that the whole “dark diseases come from dark and scary foreign lands” thing smacks of racism to me. Also, although I enjoyed the visuals, I got totally confused about the resulting effects on British geography, as various walls and moats were built and there was one bridge left and I’m not entirely sure where the bridge went despite literal maps attempting to help me keep track.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2015)

This bridge blows up, but I’m still unclear where it goes.

I think if you were taking this seriously, which I didn’t — cocktails and girlfriends help! — you could argue that something as major as a zombie outbreak in England multiple generations before the 1800s-10s would have more fundamentally changed society than it did. I’m sure that would be the argument for any costume weirdnesses … so why is everyone still cotillion-ing and drinking tea and playing whist? Okay, so yes, everyone now goes off to Japan or (unfashionably, but supposedly superiorly) China (which the Bennet sisters do) to be trained as warriors (what happens if you’re just a klutz?). But despite that, apparently you come back and play whist (okay, they also spend a lot of time cleaning their weapons. But still!). I have no idea!

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2015)

Zombies are running around, but we still have time to dance Mr. Beveridge’s Maggot (true Regency dance name!).

I don’t want to give too much away about the plot, in case you’re like me and haven’t read the (non-Austen) books. So let’s keep it to a few points: you’ve got all five Bennet sisters, who meet Darcy and Bingley and Wickham and Collins and Lady Catherine de Bourgh all as in the original novel. Obviously the story changes to accommodate a zombie outbreak, and there’s some cute things done here — for example, instead of Darcy and Elizabeth sparring over their dance at the Netherfield Ball, they do it while fighting zombies.

Some Austen-y things get condensed — Charlotte Lucas gets about one line and other characters are condensed (Mrs. Philips is the only relative, briefly glimpsed). I think the main things that I missed are Caroline Bingley, who only gets one real scene to be bitchy (I also didn’t love her look, but she’s such a minor character that I can’t even find any images!); and there isn’t much distinguishing amongst all the Bennet sisters (Lydia is there to giggle and Jane to be pretty, but Kitty and Mary are total background other than being excellent fighters, which — Mary??!!).

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2015)

Apparently Kitty is in this, but you could have fooled me.

Finally, the film picked up a few elements that are from other adaptations, like Darcy jumping into the lake (1995 reference) and Elizabeth yelling that Jane is “just shy!” at Darcy (2005 reference), both of which were fine — again, this is trying to be pop-culture-savvy, not reverential.

Finally, cast-wise I enjoyed all of the performances. Lily James did a good Elizabeth Bennet — smart, pretty, judgemental; Sam Riley did a good glowering Mr. Darcy, although Douglas Booth as Bingley was soooooo pretty; Sally Phillips wasn’t my favorite Mrs. Bennet, but she did an admirable job; Charles Dance could have been a better Mr. Bennet if he’d been given more screen time, but since he wasn’t, I just kept waiting for him to take over the adjoining kingdom; Jack Huston was a dreamy yet evil Wickham; Matt Smith was HIGH-larious as Mr. Collins; and I quite liked Lena Headey’s younger, badass Lady Catherine.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2015)

Mr. Collins still proposes, and he’s still a twit.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2015)

Don’t F with Lady Catherine.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2015)

Mr. Bingley, aka MR. PRETTY.

Finally, in case you’re a horror-aphobe … I saw some people on social media say that they felt like they’d basically seen a romantic comedy. As someone who watches a lot of costume movies (OBVIOUSLY), I will say that about 50% of this is truly a zombie movie. So don’t go into it expecting that to just be the occasional joke! They’re there, they get their heads shot off, there are brains, etc.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Costumes

Designed by Julian Day (In the Heart of the SeaSalmon Fishing in the Yemen) — weirdly, they were pretty darn good, minus a few clunkers and a few “huh?” things in terms of costume working with characterization.

For some reason, I want to start with Mr. Darcy. Despite being a colonel, he spent the movie in a long back Matrix-esque leather coat … which the foley artists had fun making squeak. I don’t know if it was supposed to be funny, but we couldn’t stop laughing. He looked great, although if he’s a colonel, shouldn’t he be in uniform (like all the other army guys)?

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2015)

Darcy is a colonel but doesn’t dress it — instead he’s busy going “squeak squeak squeak.”

Other than that, the men were all Regency uniforms and high collars and nothing out of the ordinary!

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2015)

Mr. Wickham in uniform

On to the ladies … in general, everyone looked right out of your standard Jane Austen adaptation, perhaps with a few more short sleeves for daytime than is expected (a modernization that you generally see, but I felt like I saw more of it in this) and low necklines (another common modernization).

But there were bonnets and pelisses and spencers, and the prints were all perfect for the era, and I didn’t see much to complain about other than the few clunkers that I’ll discuss next.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2015)

Pelisses and bonnets!

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2015)

Nice prints!

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2015)

Spencers!

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2015)

Silk!

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2015)

Elizabeth’s Netherfield Ball dress.

Oh, and they FOUND THEIR HAIRPINS (hallelujah)! And I admit that I LURVED Lady Catherine’s amazing hairstyle, with a braid of hair attached over the top of a decorative comb.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2015)

You can’t really see the comb in this pic, but that top braid is resting on top of it.

Luckily, the no-chemises-under-corsets and ruffled tap panties (SHUDDER) flew by in 0.5 seconds.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2015)

The weirdest costume to me was Elizabeth’s first assembly (dance) costume. It had unnecessary straps, was weirdly off-the-shoulder, had crappy lace, and was seriously made of 100% polyester baroque satin. It was WEIRD, because it was the only thing like it. Yes, you want your audience to know who the heroine is, but I don’t know if putting her into a super crappy, super modern prom dress is the answer.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2015)

WHY??!!

There were some logical, given the zombie-infested world they live in, tweaks to the costumes that were just fine by me. Skirts were slit up to the thigh to allow for fighting, and the women wore lots of leather holsters for various weapons.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2015) Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2015) Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2015)

And when it came time for the final battle, both Elizabeth and Lady Catherine put on PANTS … which seemed fine to me, given the fact that this was also trying to be a zombie/action movie. Whatever! I’m far more offended by poly baroque satin prom dresses.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2015)

 

Have you seen Pride and Prejudice and Zombies yet? What’s your take on the costumes?

Tags

About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

42 Responses

  1. Julia

    I love how the costumes in this ridiculous romp are so much better than the legit historical War and Peace currently on.

    Reply
  2. Shannon Gruber Burchard

    Accurate or not, I left wanting almost all of Elizabeth’s coats. We had a merry group all dressed up to watch. There was also another group of Zombie-Regency dressed drag queens. That set it over the top for sure.

    Reply
  3. The Author

    I don’t understand how anyone could put a corset on without SOMETHING under it and not complain, unless it’s laced wrong or purely decorative….

    Reply
  4. LydiaR

    As a lifelong Austenite, I can pretty much recite Pride and Prejudice. I only ready P&P&Z once, but I thought it was hilarious – mostly because I could pinpoint exactly where all the changes were. I think it was the juxtapositions between the original and the new bits that amused me most.

    I can’t decide if I’ll watch the movie, though. I’m really not a zombie fan, and I’m quite squeamish. Maybe I’ll watch in on Netflix – gross things are slightly less gross on a smaller screen.

    Reply
  5. LydiaR

    (also, one year my friend and I went to a Halloween party as P&P&Z – she put on zombie makeup and I chased her around with a plastic cutlass!)

    Reply
  6. mmcquown

    A ‘maggot’ is a novelty, apparently. Somehow, if I find one in something, I’m not likely to regard it as such. If I don’t get snowed in again, maybe I’ll catch this epic soon. BTW, Lady Catherine de Souza appears as a character in a Dr Who episode in the Tennant era.

    Reply
  7. Charity

    I LOVED it. So funny. So intentionally camp. I had a stupid grin throughout.

    Elizabeth’s coats are to die for. I would seriously cosplay the hell out of her given half the chance.

    Reply
  8. Dawn

    How gory is it exactly? Hubby wants to see it and I’ve been dragging my feet, being neither an Austen fan nor a zombie fan. Your review is tempting, but I really don’t want to see exploding heads and buckets of gore and other such nastiness. Very squeamish about that sort of thing, esp on film.

    Reply
  9. Janette

    Lady Catherine’s purple coat. I need that. I mean really really need that. Nice to see attractive, almost historically correct Regency costumes. (The tendency to dress the women in evening wear, Ie low neck lines, during day time however continues to irritate me.)

    Reply
  10. Graham Christian

    Mr. Beveridge’s Maggot is NOT an authentic Regency dance or dance name. That dance was first printed in 1695 and went out of print in c. 1728. No, dancers in Austen’s day did not retain or revive seventy-five-year-old dances. They would have danced some longways dances (Mr Beveridge’s is a longways)–but not THAT one; not the tune nor the figures. Even more likely? A cotillon (a dance for four couples in a square). And no, it is not all the same. Try to picture a film version of On the Road where the characters suddenly break into the Charleston. It is beyond me why filmmakers go to great lengths to get (some of) the details right, and bork the dances.

    Reply
  11. Raven

    Hooray! I saw PPZ opening night and really enjoyed it! I was even pleased to see that they went for bouncy dancing (which even though not completely accurate is still a large step up from the slow/stately business in some P&P adaptations). It’s quite something when an action movie has better costumes than a BBC period drama… (looking at you, War and Peace!)

    Reply
  12. mmcquown

    There’s a can of worms, Graham! Most of the balletic dancing in those Biblical epics is highly unlikely, and I have never understood why Middle Eastern dancers were so seldom hired for Arabian Nights films.

    Reply
  13. Eryn

    I tried to read the book, but honestly, it didn’t diverge enough from the original for me. You could take a copy of P&P and write in “but there were also zombies” or “and then ninjas ran in” or “Elizabeth slaughtered an assassin” periodically and get the same effect. I wanted it to have more of an original plot, but no- it’s exactly what the title says. Which is fine, I guess, but at that point I’d rather just read the original.

    Reply
    • Anneke Oosterink

      They have changed the plot quite significantly in the film. I actually liked the plot from the book more, since here I was definately more in Wickham’s camp (at least up until Lydia’s thing, but even then I agreed with his points, so…) about the whole zombies who still think. The book has Lady Catherine firmly in the delusional camp with her tea that slows infection, but here Wickham is in the right that zombies can in fact think, and do so too. I appriciate the change in plot, but they made me agree with the person they considered the bad guy. So bad writing I guess. In the end I would’ve preferred the plot from the book.

      Reply
  14. Stephani

    All right, so I went to see this with some Jane Austen Society friends yesterday, and I was very impressed by the story, the action, the funny aspects, and I was very happy the costumes weren’t bad–aside from Darcy’s squeaky leather great coat. I had NOT read the book, and still won’t. The movie was very entertaining and they did some pretty cool things with the characters. Everyone in the group with me was happy with the decision to see it and thought it was pretty awesome. And yes, my Matt Smith made an excellent awkward, floppy Parson Collins (not sure why the character insisted on being addressed as Parson, though). I really liked the part where the girls were training in the basement, and I loved Lydia’s “Moo” line.

    Reply
    • Anneke Oosterink

      I’m guessing it has something to do with the fact that he thinks he is civilized by not being a soldier? Something like that?

      Reply
  15. pandaemonaeum

    I want all of Lena Headey’s costumes and I don’t even do Regency. That black military uniform at the end shall be mine!

    This post is the closest I will ever get to the film – zombies give me nightmares in a way that nothing else does :(

    Reply
  16. Evil Empryss

    I know I’m coming to this thread a little late, but please, please, please, can anyone help me find material that would match (or even closely approximate) the material of Elizabeth’s fighting corset? I have clear pics of the outfit and a close-up of the corset material here: http://i702.photobucket.com/albums/ww23/EvilEmpryss/pride-and-prejudice-and-zombies_12.jpg
    and here: http://i702.photobucket.com/albums/ww23/EvilEmpryss/corset%20material.jpg

    I’m working on movie-accurate recreations of Elizabeth’s outfit and a historically-accurate recreation for my zombie to wear. I would desperately like to get the look of that stunning brown corset!

    Reply
  17. pina

    It’s funny–I’ve always had the feeling that Lizzy had been attracted to Darcy when she first met him, and that’s why her reaction to being put down by him was so strong. I can’t believe of all the P&P adaptations that I saw, *this* is the only one that approached the matter from that angle. (To clarify, I understand that Darcy’s “aloof and snarky” shtick wouldn’t have been very popular with the ladies back in the day, but I think it would intrigue someone like Elizabeth who also has a tendency to snark –only less loudly–.)

    Reply

Feel the love