I don’t hear film folk screaming her name from the rooftops, but Lily James is making some form of progress in the film world following her memorable supporting turn in TV’s Downton Abbey. We certainly can’t account for what all of that extraordinary cast are doing now, one or two have made the splash – Matthew Crawley has since been an enigmatic lunatic, and now the Disney adaptation Beast himself. Bravo. Following in the shoes of the successful Cinderella, Miss James now goes wild in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, based on the novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, this is essentially a Jane Austen / flesh-eaters hybrid. A ludicrous concept primarily, but let’s not knock it, as the movie does exactly what it says on the tin. Sit through the end credits, too, if you suspect the ending is a little too nicey-nice for your tastes.
Following a rather lavish, eye-catching title sequence, the plot dives right in to period society territory, and with the ladies and gents seemingly already incorporating the presence of the undead into their lives, it is not long before the blood hits the fan. Elizabeth (James) and her sisters are all efficient ass-kickers, and slice up some zombies when they gate-crash a party, intended for the Bennett sisters to find wealthy suitors. The scene is set, and although a parody on Pride and Prejudice, that very aspect loosely follows through with the book’s developments and sentiments – that is to say fans of Austen (and other such literary classics) will struggle not to find something engaging here – even the stubbornest of fans who find this movie’s notion ridiculous. In fact the gruesome brain-dead walkers often have to take a back-seat to the social graces and romantic sensibilities presented in the plot.
Elizabeth is, of course, pursued by Darcy (Sam Riley), who is also capable of playing hero by swooping in and disposing of zombies, but their conversing is hard work. In a stand-out scene, when Darcy proposes to Elizabeth, she is furious, and they soon engage in combat. Blood is not shed, and they part on polite terms, but what it does allow is the ante to be upped on the repression of the famous lovebirds in a physical way we’ve not seen before, but likely imagined. The whole thing is a farce, but is not to be taken seriously, this can be said to live up to its mindless entertainment intentions. To pull it apart for its lack of an integral cinematic scope would be missing the point. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is by no means my film of the year, not by a long shot, but the title of Guilty Pleasure of the year has a front-runner.