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Film / Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

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"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains."

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a 2016 action comedy horror film adapted from Seth Grahame-Smith's 2009 parody novel of the same name. Written and directed by Burr Steers and produced by Natalie Portman, the film stars Lily James, Sam Riley, Matt Smith, Lena Headey, Charles Dance, and Jack Huston.

Following Colonel Darcy's failure to prevent the slaughter of the inhabitants of Netherfield Park during a whist-party, due to the hostess's refusal to tell him of a second potential zombie infectee, the place is acquired by Darcy's friend Captain Bingley, much to the delight of Mrs. Bennet, and the indifference of her husband and eldest daughters, who are rather more concerned with their potential survival than their matrimonial prospects.

At their first meeting at the Meryton assembly, Darcy succeeds in mortifying Elizabeth's pride, only to rapidly change his mind upon seeing her prowess in combat. Elizabeth, however, despises him, which is only encouraged by the arrival of Lieutenant Wickham, who tells her of the great wrong Darcy has done him.

That is about as close as the text sticks to the original Pride and Prejudice. As far as its faithfulness to Grahame-Smith's parody, it also diverges quite sharply from the text by focusing far more on the world of Regency England now beset by a Zombie Apocalypse, causing substantial alterations to the plot and characterisation as a result.

This film provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: All five Bennet daughters and Lady Catherine. Miss Darcy, Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst's combat skills are all also alluded to, but we only see the Bennets in action.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness:
    • Mrs. Bennet is shown to be slightly younger and prettier than she is in Jane Austen's novel. It's suggested that she was pretty in her youth but her looks faded over the years. Although Sally Phillips is the right age (forty-five), she's Older Than They Look.
    • Lady Catherine is an elderly woman in the original book, but can't be older than middle-aged here. In this case it's justified, as Lady Catherine is now imagined as a skilled zombie hunter still young enough to fight in battle.
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • Lydia appears to be sorry for her elopement with Wickham and grateful to her sisters for saving her. On the whole, she is far less of a silly character: being trained in the martial arts must have provided the discipline that her parents would have otherwise neglected.
    • Mary, as well, is a less tedious character with her introverted habits and is shown to be adept at fighting as her sisters.
  • Amazon Chaser: Darcy's realisation that he finds Elizabeth attractive, quite a slow process in the book, here takes place all at once when he sees her fight for the first time.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The Stinger in the middle of the credits shows us an undead Wickham leading a zombie assault on the double wedding.
  • The Antichrist: George Wickham, as many previous readers of Pride and Prejudice had long suspected.
  • Badass Longcoat: Darcy has a very distinctive black leather coat that he is never seen without - not even at his wedding.
  • Battle Couple: Elizabeth and Darcy. Also Jane and Bingley, although we do get to see rather less of them than we do of the main couple.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Lizzie and Darcy. Darcy's first proposal involves them fighting each other with improvised weapons, taking buttons off along the way.
  • Big Damn Kiss: Darcy and Elizabeth have a truly epic one once he recovers and proposes to Lizzie for the second time.
  • Blade Below the Shoulder: By the time the the stinger rolls around, Wickham appears to have replaced his severed arm with some kind of clawed weapon-limb.
  • Boom, Headshot!: One possible way to take out zombies, though this is considerably harder with Regency-era weapons that are difficult to aim and prone to backfiring.
  • Colonel Badass: Darcy. He is mentioned to be a veteran of the Second Battle of Kent, and in the first scene is shown decapitating a zombie infectee before he can slaughter the rest of the party, although alas he leaves before the second zombie infectee at the whist-party in question is discovered.
  • Converse with the Unconscious: Lizzie to Darcy, after Hingham Bridge is demolished. And then they kiss.
  • Cultured Badass: All of English society strives to be this, balancing both the mannerly and the deadly arts. Only some succeed.
  • Damsel in Distress: Lydia, rather more literally so than in the book, given that Darcy finds her locked in a cell in the basement of St Lazarus.
  • Dance of Romance: Between Jane and Bingley. Defied with Lizzie and Mr. Collins. Surprisingly averted for Lizzie and Darcy, even though he explicitly asks her and she accepts (to avoid dancing with Mr. Collins again).
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Darcy was forced to kill his father after it is implied that Wickham allowed him to be infected.
  • Dead All Along: Wickham, or at least undead.
  • The Dead Can Dance: Invoked by Darcy when asked if he agrees that dancing is the first refinement of a polished society:
  • Deadpan Snarker: Many of the characters, but especially Darcy, Lizzie, and Mr. Bennet.
    Lizzie: Have you read it in its original Wu dialect?
    Darcy: Alas, no.
    Lizzie: (in Chinese) Then you have not read The Art of War.
  • Demoted to Extra: Quite a lot of characters from the original, for reasons of length, most prominently the younger Bennet sisters and Charlotte Lucas, whose Zombie Infectee storyline from the book is removed.
  • The Dreaded: Darcy. The way he's treated by the other characters, he's more like an agent of The Men in Black than a respected member of the gentry.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Darcy. Dresses primarily in black, hunts zombies for a living, and is something of a Perpetual Frowner. Even the people in his own class appear unsettled when he walks into the room. His penchant for beheading fellow-guests at whist-parties may have something to do with this.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: The priest that is supposed to check Darcy for zombie bites licks his lips while staring at Darcy's...private parts, and Mr Collins seems to harbor a man crush for Darcy, to the point where he tells the about to be married couples that they may now kiss Mr Darcy rather than the brides. He quickly corrects his mistake.
  • Evil All Along: Wickham, obviously, but also the congregation of Saint Lazarus, as they are implied to be responsible for the increasingly organised attacks against London over the course of the film. The fact that they allowed Wickham to keep Lydia imprisoned in a cell in their basement only makes it more obvious.
  • Exact Words: When Wickham said he had never shown the Church of St.Lazarus to "any living soul" he wasn't exactly lying...
  • Feigning Intelligence: The doctor who inspects Darcy for bites at Netherfield Park has no idea what he's doing. Darcy calls his bluff by questioning him about a non-existent wound.
  • Guttural Growler: Darcy. Sam Riley's voice is naturally deep and raspy (years of smoking will do that to you), but it's deeper and raspier than even that.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Darcy is constantly wearing a long, leather coat.
  • Hidden Depths: Despite her claims that she doesn't want to marry and finds being 'paraded like a herd of heifers at a cattle-market' at the local assemblies degrading, Elizabeth pretty clearly does care about the fact that her training, social position and relative lack of accomplishments due to her father's focus on training his daughters as warriors mean that she is unlikely ever to be able to marry, and she is much more stung by Darcy's initial insult as a result of this insecurity, where in the original Pride and Prejudice her chances of matrimony were rather higher and so Darcy's insult did not have quite as noticeable an effect.
  • Hypocrite: Mr. Collins is adamant that any wife of his give up her sword because it's unladylike, despite living on the estate of the deadliest woman in England.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Like all his incarnations before him, Darcy would do anything for Elizabeth. But in this version, rather than bribing Wickham into marrying Lydia, sparing Elizabeth's family an ugly sex scandal, he lies to Elizabeth to protect her and braves a church full of the undead to save Lydia from Wickham's clutches.
  • Insistent Terminology: Parson Collins. Not that anyone really remembers.
  • It Can Think: Zombies are shown to be capable of passing for human until they first eat human flesh, and even after that they are capable of creating traps for the living. This is exaggerated by the congregation of Saint Lazarus who are capable of controlling other zombies and creating much broader plans for conquest and domination.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Awful as he is, Wickham is right to note that zombies breed faster than humans and therefore have greater numbers.
    Wickham: Nine months to make a baby, then sixteen years to make a soldier... only one. raw. second. to make a zombie.
  • Lady of War: Considered absolutely essential in order for a lady to be properly accomplished in this setting.
  • Lecture as Exposition: After the Cold Open, the setting is introduced for us in the form of a vintage peepshow of England's history, read by Mr. Bennet to his daughters.
  • Love at First Sight: Claimed between Bingley and Jane, and also, rather less believably, between Darcy and Elizabeth.
  • Moody Trailer Cover Song: One trailer featured an atmospheric cover of "Born to Be Wild." Presumably this is referring to Elizabeth Bennet being a badass.
  • My Greatest Failure: The whist party at Netherfield Park, for Darcy. And possibly the infection of his father.
  • Never My Fault: Wickham gives a long Motive Rant that blames Darcy for, among other things, the eventual destruction of England by the zombie horde.
  • No Guy Wants an Amazon: Mr. Collins certainly doesn't, as his demand that Elizabeth relinquish her weapons upon marriage is the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back in the trainwreck of his proposal.
  • Not Good with Rejection: Darcy, and how! After being soundly rejected by Elizabeth, he writes her a letter declaring that if he can't win her love, he'll seek solace by fighting on the frontlines in the war against the undead.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Lizzie stumbles upon a group of men dressed as undertakers who do this when Wickham interrupts her. She is quite disturbed later when she sees the painting at Lady Catherine's that depicts the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse the same way. Darcy later encounters what are presumably the same four men guarding Saint Lazarus and easily bypasses them, indicating that they were probably just members of the Lazarus cult dressing the part of the Biblical entities.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: Wickham's ambitions have escalated beyond revenge against Darcy into a desire to bring about the End of the World as We Know It at the head of the zombie hordes.
  • Peekaboo Corpse: Elizabeth hears a friendly-sounding voice consoling her at a party and thinks nothing of it until she recalls that the speaker of that friendly-sounding voice is dead. She turns and meets with Nightmare Fuel.
  • Rank Scales with Asskicking:
    • Darcy is a Colonel in this version of 'Pride and Prejudice' and is actually seen leading men from the frontlines.
    • Wickham, being The Antichrist leader of the zombies, seems to be significantly tougher than any ordinary zombie and does not succumb to blows which would dispatch the garden variety zombie.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The church of St. Lazarus consists entirely of zombies. Lazarus was a man whom Jesus resurrected from the dead.
  • Revenant Zombie: While many of the zombies encountered are run-of-the-mill, relatively stupid flesh-eaters, some manage to retain their sapience upon rising and can keep their human-level intelligence so long as they resist eating human flesh.
  • Sacrificed Basic Skill for Awesome Training: The Bennet sisters have extensive Shaolin training but are not nearly as well-versed in womanly arts like drawing, singing, or cooking. Lizzie argues to Darcy that this is inevitable and a person can only specialize in one area, and it seems that she's right: the genteel and social Bingleys are terrible at combat, while expert swordsman Darcy has No Social Skills.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: All the Bennet sisters, but most obviously Jane.
  • Shoot the Dog: Darcy appears ready and willing to follow this philosophy whenever he suspects someone of being infected, whether it's the sister of the woman he's falling in love with or his own best friend. And when he was younger, he was forced to put down his own father after he became infected with the zombie plague.
  • Shout-Out: Many to the 1995 miniseries, most notably a scene where Darcy dives into a lake wearing trousers and a white shirt.
  • Shrine to Self: Lady Catherine de Bourgh, being the deadliest woman in England and hero of many zombie battles, has a very large portrait of herself slaying a zombie in a manner similar to the Archangel Michael or St. George. Judging by Lizzie's reaction, she thinks it's a bit much.
  • Sibling Team: The Bennet sisters.
  • Skewed Priorities: Mrs. Bennet, at least so far as her husband is concerned, for being more concerned with marrying her daughters off than seeing that they can defend themselves against the zombie hordes. Played with, however, in that marriage is still an important part of the Bennet girls' future prospects due to the entail on Longbourn and, in fact, having somewhere to go when Mr. Collins inherits is of even greater importance due to the risk of being devoured by zombies if they don't.
  • Tall, Dark, and Snarky: Darcy, of course.
  • Too Dumb to Live: After witnessing a zombie hunter prove that a normal looking man is infected , Mrs. Featherstone remains silent when Darcy asks whether the man has any relatives who he may have had a chance to infect . Once Darcy leaves, one of Mrs . Featherstone's guests or relatives incredulously says that the Zombie Infectee's niece is present , but Mrs. Featherstone ridiculously claims that he doesn't want to subject the girl to be interrogated by Darcy , as if what he does is a great sacrilege , never mind that his method of interrogation is perfect , non-violent if the person is not a zombie and just submits people innocent to a slight annoyance . The niece is infected and proceeds to turn most if not all of the house and party guests .
  • True Blue Femininity: is frequently shown wearing blue dresses. She both meets Darcy and gets his first proposal while wearing blue.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Bingley, to almost Too Dumb to Live levels. When zombies attack the ball, his first inclination is to go for Darcy instead of fighting them himself, and when he does go after them, he's subdued almost immediately. Later, he is almost strangled to death when a zombie grabs his cravat. Played with, however, as one could argue that his decision to go to Darcy indicates that Bingley knows full well that he is not a particularly capable fighter and so trying to find Darcy, a very competent swordsman with a proven record against zombies, was the most sensible course he could have taken, if not for Elizabeth's intervention.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Mrs. Featherstone gets shot through the head by Darcy, but in the seconds before this occurs she tells Elizabeth she has something (presumably quite important) to say to her. As Lizzie notes afterwards, the zombie wasn't attacking her, leaving the question of what she wanted to say unanswered.note 
  • You Killed My Father: Strongly implied to be Darcy's primary motivation for hating Wickham.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Mentioned by name several times throughout the film, with increasingly Biblical overtones as the plot goes on.