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Pride + Prejudice + Zombies


Stars: Lily James, Sam Riley, Charles Dance, Jack Huston, Lena Headey, Matt Smith, Sally Phillips, Bella Heathcote, Ellie Bamber, Suki Waterhouse, Millie Brady, Aisling Loftus

Director: Burr Steers

What you see is pretty much what you get here, although Burr Steers should perhaps have thought twice before directing his own screenplay. Based on one of a series of books that 'horrorfy' old classics (check out Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters!!), this one stars a feisty Lily James, but is not so much War and Peace as Rest in Pieces, as the all-action Bennet sisters (Heathcote, Bamber, Waterhouse and Brady are the others) set out to chop down the zombie population of England with a sword in their hands and a dagger in their garters.

It's the early 19th century, and the 'black plague' has decimated the population of England's green but no longer pleasant land; the five Bennet sisters have been sent to the Far East to train as warriors by their father (Charles Dance), and the once-foppish Mr Darcy (Sam Riley) is now a fearless zombie hunter. The girls still seek suitable husbands, but, as Lizzie says, they now need 'other qualities' to survive, as the basic elements of Jane Austen's book (as well as some of her original dialogue) unfold against the backdrop of a zombie apocalypse.

Cue gore galore, though not too much, as this is, after all, a romp, and one which scraped by in America with a PG-13 certificate. Implied violence, however, in particular throat-cutting, has led to the film being rightly given a '15' here.

James is suitably forthright and steely-centred as the focus of the film - when she says been training her whole life for this, you can certainly believe her - and now seems firmly established as a new British star, even if the swordfight scene where she and Riley slash buttons and other bits off each other's clothing surely owes something to the duel between Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones in The Mask of Zorro. In the supporting cast, one-time Dr Who Matt Smith's comic talents enable him to steal all his scenes as the odiously flamboyant Parson Collins.

In the end, though, it is a one-joke piece and further attempts to tamper with Austen, Bronte and Co should, you feel, be firmly resisted.

David Quinlan

UK/USA 2016. UK Distributor: LionsGate. Colour (unspecified).
107 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 14 Feb 2016