Lily James is in the thick of the action in a scene from 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.'

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Lily James is in the thick of the action in a scene from 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.'

‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ offers comic mash-up

By Shirrel Rhoades
Movie Reviewer

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Jane Austen wrote “Pride and Prejudice” in 1813. Set in England’s Regency Period, it is a novel of manners set around a young woman named Elizabeth Bennet, one of five sisters interested in the eligible Mr. Bingley and his friend, Mr. Darcy. The latter lives at a country estate called Pemberley. Yes, romance is afoot, though in a very British way.

Girls so loved the characters that my British friend Jane Dawkins wrote two sequels, “Letters from Pemberley: The First Year” and “More Letters from Pemberley: A Novel of Sisters, Husbands, Heirs.” Others have followed suit. Films include a 2005 version starring Keira Knightly.

Now comes the unthinkable. The title says it all: “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.”

This is what they call a “mash-up,” the combination of classic fiction with modern horror elements. Think: “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” or “Sense and Sensibility and Seamonsters.”

Seth Grahame-Smith is the author most associated with such mash-ups. In fact, he wrote “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” and “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.”

The film stars Lily James as Bennet and James Riley as Darcy. In the story, a mysterious plague has fallen upon 19th-century Britain, setting the undead upon the land. Fortunately, our feisty heroine and her sisters are masters at marital arts, quite capable of killing these nasty zombies. In the process, she and Mr. Darcy discover their love.

As Bennet said in the film, “To succeed in polite society, a young woman must be many things. Kind ... well-read ... and accomplished. But to survive in the world as we know it, you’ll need ... other qualities.”

James (you’ll remember her from TV’s “Downton Abbey” and Disney’s live-action “Cinderella”) is the daughter of actor and musician Jamie Thomson. In real life she has a relationship not with Mr. Darcy but with Matt Smith, the actor who plays Mr. Collins in “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.”

Originally set to star Natalie Portman (she remains one of the movie’s producers), the film has had a bumpy history. It has had a number of directors attached and eight production companies involved.

“I really want to play interesting roles, but you want to work, so it’s a balancing game,” James said of her decision to take the part.

Another balancing game? Putting Austen’s characters and zombies in the same movie.

Shirrel Rhoades is the movie reviewer for Cooke Communications North Carolina. He can be reached at srhoades@aol.com.