If you are familiar with Austin's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE then you are going to get a whole lot more from this new period horror than others. It is precisely as the title suggests. Watching it is like viewing a legitimate adaptation of the original novel, as though zombies were naturally prevalent during the period. The story arc and characters are faithful to the text and somehow they've managed to submerge everything within a historical zombie plague that threatens to destroy mankind. The Bennett daughters are exactly how they were originally, only now they're all skilled zombie slayers. With a cheeky introductory narration we learn that the wealthy sent their sons and daughters to Japan to learn ancient fighting skills while the wise sent theirs to China. And so lies the greater class distinctions of the story. Everyone's present... Elizabeth, Mr Darcy, Mr Bingly, Mr Wickham and so on.
Of course if you have never read PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, or aren't even familiar with it, then rest assured that you will still get a kick out of it. There's a lot to like and not all of it is dependant on previous knowledge of the source material. The wonderful set designs, costume designs and action choreography are fantastic and the presentation of the zombies themselves offers a fresh and unique take on what is otherwise a stale and overdone subgenre. There are excellent jump scares brazenly placed within dramatic monologues, and a whole lot of ravenous flesh eaters lurking amongst the privileged that will delight a horror fanatics amongst the audience, while the original charm and charisma of Austin's dialogue is in tact for those familiar with it.
The film also has fun with the sexism of the era and the constant denigration of women is hysterical at times, although not without purpose. This is very much a feminist movie, where the women are the powerful ass-kickers. Lily James comes to the film hot off the heels of her lead role in CINDERELLA and she slips into the Regency Era setting effortlessly. The rest of the cast are good too with Matt Smith's being particularly hilarious in as Parson Collins. He relishes the opportunity to provide the film's comic relief and he does so brilliantly. Sam Riley is excellent as Mr Darcy and Charles Dance brings a lot of theatrical weight and credencec to the whole damn thing.
The strength of the film is its resistance to CGI. The special effects are suitably understated and practical for the most part. There are some moments in the third act that resort to the digital stuff, particularly in certain siege and battle sequences, however it's never used gratuitously and director Burr Steers (yep, that's his name) wisely reigns the story in whenever it threatens to push the "crazy" too far. There are a few moments when the film lags, but as though self-aware, the story snaps into shape and picks up its momentum again.
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES is a whole lot of fun and it is certainly the movie that ABRAHAM LINCOLN VAMPIRE HUNTER should have been. There's no pretensions here... just the promise of a good time.