Jane Austen has proved to be one of the most durable authors of modern times, judging by how many adaptations, extrapolations, and rip-offs of her work have been filmed over the past thirty years. Who would dream that a movie called Pride and Prejudice and Zombies would be the dullest one of all?
Even the adaptation of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (based on a mashup novel by the same author, Seth Grahame-Smith) had more going for it than this tiresome film, written and directed by Burr Steers. The premise, laid out in a handsome but tedious title sequence, is that England has been invaded by an army of zombies who threaten to decimate the landscape and its population. That includes the Bennet family, headed by Charles Dance (in a thankless role), and its four sisters, led by headstrong Elizabeth (Lily James). Like her siblings, Elizabeth has had martial arts training and is right handy with a sword. And in keeping with Austen tradition, she takes an instant dislike to a newcomer known as Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley).
James is quite likable and surrounded by a competent cast, including Bella Heathcote, Jack Huston, Lena Headey (sporting an eyepatch), and Matt Smith, who adds welcome comedy relief as a socially inept parson with designs on the eldest Bennet sister.
But Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is neither fish nor fowl: neither gruesome or inventive enough to rank as a good horror film nor witty enough to do justice to the usually indestructible Jane Austen. I couldn’t wait for it to be over.