I know exactly what is wrong with this movie: it deviates too much from Seth Grahame-Smith’s book – and for that matter, from Jane Austen’s.
Grahame-Smith’s novel was a clever and funny mash-up that clearly honoured its source material (credit to Quirk Books editor Jason Rekulak, who came up with the idea). Fans of Austen will follow along delightedly, finding all of their favourite bits suddenly transformed by the presence of the undead and the ninja Bennett sisters’ unparalleled fighting skills. It almost feels like Austen left her novel wide open for a zombie attack, having an independent heroine spoiling for a fight and lots of solitary carriage rides through unpopulated areas.
Unfortunately, writer-director Burr Steers thought he knew better than both Grahame-Smith AND Austen, and departs from their material quite substantially. This from the esteemed writer of How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days.
The movie has glimpses of period drama and some real horror gore but has no idea how to unite the two. Instead, it drives toward an action flick, concocting very weird scenarios in which the zombies are not just a plague but a formidable, willful enemy. Lily James acquits herself well as the delightful Miss Bennett, and seems to remember that she’s supposed to be having fun. The movie, however, takes itself too seriously and winds up being ludicrous. All the juicy bits of Austen’s writing are MIA and the zombies lack bite (it’s rated PG-13) so it rather fails on both counts. The zombies keep looking for brains, but they won’t find any here.