FlixChatter Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

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Jane Austen’s brilliant work has endured over two centuries so far and it’s as relevant as ever. I’m not a purist Austen fan, as I actually enjoy alternative/re-imagining of her work, i.e. Lost in Austen, Bride & Prejudice, Bridget Jones Diary, Austenland, etc. But none are as outlandish as what Seth Grahame-Smith’s done in his book. I hadn’t read it, but when I first heard of the film adaptation back when Natalie Portman was supposed to play Elizabeth Bennet, I was already sold. Fast forward 6 years later, Portman is still attached as a producer but this time we’ve got an ensemble of up-and-coming British actors.

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As with any mashup, it ought to offer a good balance of the two genres. Whilst I think it has a good mix of both, I do think that this might offer more for fans of period dramas as it might not be bloody/gory enough for zombie lovers. It’s heavy on action with a few jump scares and less on the horror side, which suits me just fine. It’s especially thrilling that director Burr Steers (who also wrote the script) is loyal to Austen’s text and the story is grounded in the timeless romance of Lizzie and Darcy. The social class commentary is also preserved, but of course we’ve got yet another layer beneath the lowest class, that is the undead.

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The movie opens with the dashing Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley, perfectly-brooding AND bad-ass) who’s now a Colonel, visiting a wealthy estate in search of recently-turned zombies hiding amongst the living. Within minutes, we see Darcy’s decapitating an undercover zombie in his typical unperturbed stoicism. That scene is followed by a crafty storybook opening credit sequence that explains the fact that in lieu of the Napoleonic Wars, 19th century England is now overrun by hordes of the undead. In this universe though, people who’ve been bitten by the undead don’t immediately turn into full-on zombie until they’ve consumed human brains, hence they can still somehow hide in plain sight.

In order to survive in the world plagued by zombies, they had to be trained in weaponry and martial arts. Apparently the upper class folks have been trained in Japan, whilst those of lesser means, like the Bennet sisters, were trained in China. There’s an amusing bit where Lizzie speaks in Chinese to prove to Darcy that she’s read the proper text of The Art of War. As they say, all is fair in love and war, and thus the zombie apocalypse certainly ups the stakes for everyone involved.

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Faithful to the Pride & Prejudice text, the film still has the scenes that Austen fans would expect to see. We still have the Bennet sisters spending time with the family, except that instead of knitting, they’re polishing their muskets and swords. “My daughters are trained for battle… not the kitchen,” Mr Bennet says at one point, played with dignified grace by Charles Dance. We’ve also got the formal ball where Lizzie and Darcy first meet, and it’s played out just like in the original in that they did not get off on the right foot. I must say Lily James is one formidable Lizzie Bennet, even if she is still too pretty for the role just like Keira Knightley was. Miss Bennet is already a feminist icon to begin with, here the female empowerment element is pumped up even more as she’s a Kung-fu warrior who defiantly says that she’d “never relinquish her sword for a ring” and that the right man wouldn’t ask her to.

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But of course, the two headstrong pair soon find themselves attracted to each other. It’s crucial in any Pride & Prejudice adaptation that Lizzie and Darcy has chemistry and here they have that in spades. Lizzie is no damsel in distress, and by the time she and her four sisters slash a throng of zombies in slo-mo fashion, it’s Darcy who’s hyperventilating. The entire Bennet sisters are pretty bad ass, even Jane (lovely Bella Heathcote) is no shrinking violet and gets to save Mr. Bingley’s (Douglas Booth) life here. The numerous battle of wits are intact, with some intense physical battles thrown in to spice things up even more. The epic duel between Lizzie and Darcy is definitely my favorite part of the film, it’s immensely fun to watch these typically demure characters kick and hit each other senseless, and undoubtedly release their repressed sexual frustration in the process.

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This review from SFGate remarked that the zombies give Darcy a reason to brood about, and I wholeheartedly agree. I have to admit one of the issues I have with Mr. Darcy is that he’s just so enormously wealthy that he doesn’t need to work, and has little reason to justify his somber mood. But here, the titular character is given an intriguing backstory that naturally made him seem less preoccupied with finding a wife given the matters of life and death he has to face daily. There’s also an even more compelling reason why he absolutely detests these zombies (AND Mr. Wickham). I’ve never been one of those Mr. Darcy groupies, but THIS leather-clad, Samurai-wielding zombie killer extraordinaire is a hero worth swooning for, ehm. Speaking of Mr. Wickham (a charming Jack Huston), I think the major twist in Austen’s text involves his character. I won’t go into detail about his character but lets just say he’s quite um, friendly with the zombies. Heck, he even took Lizzie to a church where the patrons are not entirely alive.

PPZ_Wickham

I do have a few quibbles about the poor action sequences though. The blurry sequence during the zombie attacks/fight scene get irritating after a while, and there is some inconsistencies about the nature of the zombies as some can seem less *dead* than others. I also think Charles Dance wasn’t given enough to do and neither was his Game of Thrones’ co-star Lena Headey as eye-patch wearing Lady Catherine du Bourgh (Darcy’s aunt). She’s made out to be a fierce zombie warrior, yet we didn’t see a single scene of her battling zombies! The whole sequence of her going after Lizzie in protest of her union with Darcy is rather silly as she brought along a henchman. You’d think a woman of such stature would never be in need of one.


Despite those flaws, overall I had a lot of fun with this one. The actors are fully committed to their roles and they play it straight throughout, no wink-wink nudge nudge as if they’re doing a SNL skit. The deadpan humor is interwoven in the inherently bizarre plot and I was more than along for the ride. I think you’d enjoy this movie more if you accept the sheer audacity of mashing up these two genres from the get go. The fact that the most preposterous scenes are done with a straight face makes them even funnier. Matt Smith steals every scene he’s in as the ridiculous Mr. Collins, though he’s playing him far more flamboyantly than the previous versions. There’s always been a hint that Collins might have a thing for Darcy and it’s played up even more in this movie.

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The set pieces and gorgeous costume design by Julian Day is delightful to look at. The soundtrack by Fernando Velázquez is also suitably elegant but with a touch of ominous brood. For fans of rom-coms, this is one where there is both romance AND comedy in equal measure. I definitely will watch this again, and on the big screen! I’m glad the movie ends on a cliffhanger as I wouldn’t even mind seeing a sequel, but only if we have Lily James and Sam Riley back as Lizzie and Darcy. I like James more here than in Cinderella and she certainly can handle the action as well as the drama. I thoroughly enjoyed Sam Riley‘s portrayal of Darcy, he might not be as refined as Colin Firth but he plays up the strong-silent-type hero perfectly. He’s said in interviews that if Firth is the Sean Connery of Darcys, he’s the Roger Moore. But considering his bad-assery and special skills in weaponry, he’s more akin to Daniel Craig’s Bond mixed with Taken‘s Bryan Mills!

So yeah, I find this unlikely mashup more than a little agreeable. I do think the reason this movie works is a testament of the genius of Austen’s writing. Not only does it stand the test of time, the core of the story is intact no matter what backdrop it’s set against.

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Have you seen this movie? I’m curious to hear what YOU think!

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79 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

  1. Excellent write up, Ruth! I’m super intrigued by this. I love Pride and Prejudice, and while the Zombie aspect seems ridiculous, it’s also super intriguing and I’ve always wanted to read the novel. I can’t wait to check this one out. Lily James is so great in Cinderella and Downton Abbey…can’t wait to see her kicking butt!

    1. Thanks Drew! I sure hope you’ll give this a shot. I’m more of an Austen fan, not really into zombie flicks at all, but whaddayaknow, this mashup works and it actually enhances the characters’ motivation. Lily James is awesome here and boy, the chemistry between Lizzie and Darcy is quite scorching!

  2. I’ll probably wait for the inevitable R rated version on home video, I’m pretty sure they toned down violence to get the PG-13 rating. I did enjoy the book though so I’ll see the movie with no high expectations.

    1. Hey Ted, I overheard someone in the theater saying the book was meh but he loved the movie. He doesn’t strike me as someone who’s into period dramas but yet he loved the movie. Yes they toned down the gore, which is great for me as you know I don’t care for zombie flicks. But there are enough zombies here to satisfy genre fans I think.

        1. Are you a fan of Jane Austen? If so then I think you’d enjoy it as the story is pretty much intact, apart from the changes about Wickham and they also amped up Lady Catherine’s role in the story.

            1. Yeah I like those too, more the latter as they didn’t change the core of the story the way they did w/ Lost in Austen. What I like about PPZ is they pretty much preserved the love story between Lizzie & Darcy.

    1. Hey Eddie! YES I think you’d enjoy this one. The classic story is intact but I think given the zombie-apocalypse setting it certainly made it more action-packed.

  3. Love the review, Ruth! I will definitely be checking this out even though the zombie aspect is a bit absurd, lol. I think I’ll be waiting for the DVD release though. From the pics I’ve seen, the costumes look beautiful!

    1. Hi Tiffany! The zombie aspect IS absurd, and had they go overboard w/ the blood/gore I might not have enjoyed it as much. But you’d be surprised that the story, esp the romance is intact. I LOVE the Lizzie/Darcy moments, they’re still as romantic, even if it’s a bit more saucy (in a good way). That Darcy proposal scene is wonderfully filmed, that’ll be the scene I’ll be rewinding over and over once I get the Bluray 😉

    1. I didn’t think it’d work Vinnie, but I think making it grounded in Austen’s classic story, and the actors’ commitment to the roles made it work wonderfully! You should check it out!

        1. I also enjoyed Grahame-Smith’s previous mashup Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. But I like this a lot more as I LOVE Austen so much. Oooh, I hope you like SPOTLIGHT, that was o my top 3 of last year.

  4. Haha, I’m not surprised you liked it that much, Ruth, given that it’s based on Jane Austen’s work. 😉 I’m skipping it in theaters, but I’ll definitely check it out on DVD.

    1. I’m actually quite surprised how much I enjoyed it. It’s really a testament to Austen’s work that her story is still compelling even in a zombie apocalypse setting!

    1. I hear ya. I think a lot of ppl are in your camp that’s why the film didn’t do well, but it’s actually pretty fun. Yes the score is quite nice actually, it’s got the traditional elegant period drama style, but mixed in with some ominous tone. The cinematography and costumes are nice to look at too, as well as the British cast. I have a new favorite Mr Darcy 😉

  5. When I first heard of this I wanted to see it, then the more I saw the trailers the less intrigued I felt. But your post is making me want to see this. I didn’t even know Jack Huston was in this, I love that guy! And yes no one can do a Darcy quite like Colin Firth, he is probably my fave actor to play him. Well now I am intrigued with Sam Riley and want to see how he did in this movie. Nice job Ruth!

    1. Hello dahling! Did you see this UK version of the trailer? https://youtu.be/QWr3mLI8Xl8 I think it’s the best one as it focuses more on the Austen story. Yes Jack Huston is cool, I’m a big fan of his too, and he has a major role here. I’d love to see him and Sam in a movie again, funny that they both had played Jack Kerouac before on screen (in Kill Your Darlings and On the Road, respectively). Sam Riley is so massively underrated, the more I watch his films the more I’m enamored with him. At least he’s not as obscure as Stanley is, ahah.

      1. Oh yes you are right they both have played Jack Kerouac! I love movies about the beatnik era writers. I think he will gain much more traction than Stanley, only because he has already built a heavier US and UK resume than him. Ok I will check out this trailer, I have not seen the UK one yet!

        1. So you’ve seen On the Road then? I forgot if you have or not, as Sam is super sexy in that movie. That Garrett Hedlund dude doesn’t do anything for me, he’s from Minnesota funnily enough. It’s a bummer that Sam’s career didn’t pan out as well as it should be, I mean he was nominated for BAFTA for his first movie CONTROL so you’d think he’d be famous by now. Ah well, just my luck I guess loving such underrated actors!

          1. Yes I have seen both On the Road and Kill your Darlings wasn’t impressed by either movie. As much as I love beatnik writers and that era, neither of those movies truly do it right for me. I think those are really hard nuts to crack. But yes I do remember him doing well in that film. Yeah Garrett doesn’t’ do it for me either, I could care less about him, he is cute and all but nothing great. You should do a post on Minnesota actors, I’d be interested in reading that. And yes if he had become huge right away and not as obscure, then you would not have fallen for him! 🙂

            1. Very true that the Beatnik era are really hard nuts to crack. Kill your Darlings looks stylish from the trailer, that one focuses on Alan Ginsberg right? What do you think of Dane DeHaan? I think he’s a pretty good young actor.

              I don’t know about the MN actor post, maybe one day. The thing is, there’s none that I even like, so that makes it tough, ahah. I mean Josh Hartnett is decent I suppose, but I can’t say I’m a fan. Funny they’re generally very lanky and tall, must be the Scandinavian genes.

              As for Sam, well I thought his love scenes w/ Kristen Stewart were pretty hot, man the *almost* threesome scene, woof! [fan self] The way he looked at her in that hotel room before they got it on, I literally paused that several times, ahah. I think it’s waaaay hotter than the honeymoon scene she did in Twilight with her real-life boyfriend R-Patz!

              1. Yes I have seen other movies that try to capture that era and I think its partly due to the fact that a lot of those books from that period don’t translate well. Although it was not about a specific writer, I thought Inside Llewyn Davis captured the sentiment of that era perfectly and probably why I started to love Oscar Issac. Kill your Darlings was okay, had a really cool vibe to it and the idea was there, just not done right. And yes Dane DeHaan is really good and Michael C. Hall is in that too and does really well. And yes I remember that scene you are describing, I do remember thinking he did a good Kerouac. Definitely gave him that sexy writer’s edge. Yeah maybe the MN post isn’t a great idea hahaha. It sounded interesting for a second. I have a friend from there and she basically looks like and is a total Swede, that’s a thing there right?

                1. Oh yeah Inside Llewyn Davis has that moody feel, and Oscar’s fantastic in that film. I might still give Kill Your Darlings a shot, I like Radcliffe, he’s done great things w/ his career so far.

                  Yep, lots of Finnish and Swedes here, blue-eyed, blond people, ahah. I’m more into dark-haired folks, preferably w/ blue eyes (contrast well w/ the dark hair) but Sam has dark brown eyes, almost black, which I think is rare in British guys.

                  You should come visit me here in the Summer/Fall. It’s very pretty here, and I think there are tons of good looking guys too 😉 Did I tell you there’s a Stanley lookalike at my gym, I’d literally stare (from a distance) in awe of his beauty 😀

    1. Ahah well if you’re not a fan of period dramas then maybe it’s not for you Mark. But I enjoyed it immensely and definitely will watch again. I never said that about other movies w/ zombies in it 😉

  6. Loved everything you say about it as it’s ALL true.. Sam Riley, whom I’ve loved since ‘Control’ was so perfect as Darcy..Lily James..her badassery was so fun!! and the stunning Douglas Booth.. I mean..who couldn’t have love this cast.. I certainly did.. it was just pure entertaining good fun!! 😀

    1. Hi Peggy! Man I still haven’t seen CONTROL yet. I’ve been bingeing on Sam Riley films, just saw On The Road the other day and absolutely LOVED him as Sal Paradise. Need to see Brighton Rock as well. I don’t find Douglas Booth attractive though, way too pretty, like he’s in a boy band or something, ahah. Glad you agree w/ my review of PPZ, I think the cast adds a ton to the material and made it so watchable! I like Jack Huston as Wickham too, what do you think of him?

      1. oh my goodness.. It’s a MUST SEE!!! His performance as Ian Curtis is spellbinding.. it’s where I first took notice of him..seen the movie a few times now.. yes, I like On the Road, not as much as Control..and him as ‘Pinkie’ in Brighton Rock..well it’s just pretty funny/cute as he plays a bad-boy of old school.. it’s def. not bad..just ..you’ll see..hahaha And as Darvell in Byzantium..I was actually surprised how much I liked the movie as a whole.. The only part that irked me was Malificent as he was a crow.. dumb.. hahahahaha

        1. Ooooh so you’ve seen quite a few of his movies, awesome!! Spellbinding? WOW I have to see it soon then. I found him to be mesmerizing in On the Road, but unfortunately he didn’t have as much screen time despite being the lead. I’m really curious to see him in Brighton Rock even though I understand the film isn’t as good as the original. Oooh and yes, he’s great in Byzantium. Wish he had more screen time there as well and now I want to see him w/ Gemma Arterton more, funny she played Elizabeth Bennet in Lost in Austen 😉 Ahah yeah, Diaval is silly, but I think it gave him exposure to International audience and his interviews on that movie are hilarious!

      2. Oh and yes.. LOVE Jack… again I just like him all around.. And yes, I will admit to being a total Booth fan-girl..he is just stunning..I think it can hinder him sadly in being taken seriously whereas it wouldn’t for a girl. It’s too bad.. Sometimes I like the pretty..and he def. is! 😀

        1. I like Jack a lot, I think I first saw him in The Night Train to Lisbon where he had a small role. I think he and Sam are hugely talented, I hope they both will get more prominent roles in the future.

          Booth is gorgeous, but I don’t usually like pretty boys. I think Sam is perhaps the most clean cut guys I’m crushing on. The last guy I was really into is this super hunky French actor Stanley Weber who’s REALLY manly and scruffy (http://flixchatter.tumblr.com/post/123336812732/rewatching-clips-of-nahe-again-and-i-wish-there) But there’s something so fetching about Sam, so tall & lean w/ effortless swagger. Oh man, I’m in love 😛

      1. I am on tumblr though I will confess I don’t go to it nearly as much as I should as when I do I suddenly find myself stuck in a vortex of so much pretty that the next thing I know it’s an hour and a half later and I’m like..whhaaaa.. whaat just happened to me?? hahahahaha I am following you now though as I need some more Stanley in my life! 😀 Have a good weekend!

        1. I’m only on Tumblr when I’m crushing HARD on someone, which is the case now w/ Sam Riley. I was head over heels for Stanley for almost a year though, as you can see I have a ton of posts on him there. I even made a B’day tribute for Stanley and he thanked me on Twitter 😀

          Unfortunately Sam isn’t on social media 😦 I love the fact that he’s happily married w/ a baby now, and his actress wife is so pretty, she’s in Rush as Daniel Bruhl’s wife.

          1. Yeah.. that’s when I like it too! It’s so funny that I’ve had this Sam Riley thing for sooooo long now and no one EVER knew who he was when I would say stuff..like ‘Oh I wanna see that cuz Sam Riley is in it’ no one got it!! hahahaha so its soooo nice to finally have another Riley fan to chat with..YAY! and yeah, I knew who his wife was when I saw her in The Baader Meinhoff Complex .. and then yes Rush..which I loved!

            1. Hey Peggy! I guess I’m late to the party in regards to Sam Riley. I mean gosh, I just finally saw CONTROL earlier today and was absolutely blown away! I can’t believe it was his debut performance and also the debut feature from its director. It’s sooooo good, heartbreaking, cool, sexy and sad, all rolled into one. I hope you still like Sam now and yes I’m thrilled to find a fellow Riley fan because I think he’s so grossly underrated!! I first saw his wife Alexandra in RUSH, but I have to check out Downfall and The Baader Meinhoff Complex. She’s so pretty, esp in Control, I could see why Sam fell for her.

              1. I don’t think you’re behind on Sam at all..I used to be a talent manager for actors for quite some time..so it’s kinda my thing to spot new actors & fall head over heels for them earlier than most!! hahahaha Isn’t ‘Control’ just amazing tho?? I just love that film soooo much.. he’s so so so good in it and the director was a friend of a friend which is how I got turned on to it. And then finding Sam in it made me want to see other stuff from him..hence my fandom!! and no, that fandom doesn’t go away.. ha! 2015 my pick was Taron Egerton..who I just got to meet about a month ago for the first time..absolute doll.. so I try to find them & pick them quick like..hahahahah am going to check out your Tumblr and all much more carefully tomorrow..as I have some time in the next few days to catch up w/things.. yay!!

                1. Whoa!!! That’s so cool that you used to be a talent manager!! Somehow I thought you’re in the UK but you’re based in L.A. That’s cool that you met Taron Egerton, I like him in Kingsman! Did you ever get a chance to see Sam? I do some interviews sometimes too w/ talents that came to town, but living in Minnesota, there’s not many opportunities to interview actors.

                  Ahah, too funny that you now love Stanley Weber. Just type in his name in Tumblr and most if not ALL of the Tumblr posts on him is likely mine, mwahaha!

                  1. I have not had a chance to meet Sam..he doesn’t really come here. I keep track!! hahaahhaha That’s great that you ge to do some interviews & things too!! I know people go to Minnesota all the time for filming – tho I will admit..a bit to cold for me!! I’m originally from the Netherlands, but have been in the States a long time now, we stayed here since I was about 12 or so, and yes now I’m a bit thin skinned & love the sun not the snow!! I was excited to meet Taron.. He was just a doll. Now to find Sam! ha!

                    1. Hello again Peggy! Well maybe one day, I mean he’s young still so maybe he’ll be in a film where he has to do press junket in L.A. When that happens let me know so I can live vicariously through you 😀

                      Ahah yeah MN is cold, I’m originally from Indonesia which is tropical, but I’ve been here for 20 yrs. Being from the Netherlands, you’re surely familiar w/ Indo cuisine right? I was just in Amsterdam about a year ago and had some Indo food there.

                      Did you blog about your meet up w/ Taron? I’d love to read it!

                    2. OMG.. the BEST Indo food in Netherlands.. I LOVE IT!! Lumpia w/Nasi is some of my fav. things on earth! We would get along fantastically eating all of it together! hahahahaha I’m doing my review of Eddie the Eagle & Taron thing as we speak.. probably have it done tonight.. I just got so behind with things Its been a few weeks & am just getting to it..but I knew I had some time and had other screenings etc to do that were being released earlier..but then starting next week I do my either 5 or 7 days of Oscars also..so.. I gotta get BUSY!! hahahha

                    3. Ahah, you made me drool now… Indo food is what I miss most living in MN as there’s not a single Indo restaurant here unlike in L.A. There are several Indo restaurants there but my fave is Simpang Asia near Culver City. It’s a very casual spot but soooo yummy!

                      Cool, tweet me the link to your post then when you’re done. I still need to do a post on Sam Riley or review CONTROL which I absolutely love, but I’m so obsessed w/ him now I find it hard to write about him, that’s why I’ve been on Tumblr a lot, ahah.

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  8. Nice review! I love Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It was so much fun, and the film did a good job combining the original book and zombies. I didn’t read the P&P&Z book and didn’t think that hindered watching the movie. The cast was great! My only complaint was that I wished seeing more of Lena kick more ass. Perhaps if we get a sequel?. . . .

    1. Hi Katy! Glad to hear you love PPZ too. I’m not head over heels for Sam Riley! My cinematic crushing a disease that strikes me once in a blue moon but when it does there is really no cure for it other than letting run its course, ahah. He’s soooo awesome as Darcy. Yeah I was hoping to see more Lena kicking ass too, that’s one of my main beefs of this movie.

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    1. Hi Adam! Not sure why I missed your comment here. Well, PPZ is now out on Bluray and Digital, hope you give it a shot. I bought the Bluray (natch!) and enjoyed the heck out all the Special Features!

        1. Matt Smith is pretty hilarious here as Mr Collins, though for me it’s more about Darcy & Lizzie, as that’s the core story of Pride & Prejudice 🙂

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  16. Was really hoping I’d enjoy this as much as you did. But it fell flat for me. The period drama side of things weren’t strong enough and then the zombie side of things weren’t either! The “special” factor of the crazy melding of zombie with period drama, with girls kicking arse lost it’s special factor for me as the film wore on. Though am interested in giving the book a read… one day.

    1. Hey that’s fair Jaina! I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did to be honest, but I was so smitten w/ Sam Riley’s Darcy almost immediately, perhaps that was one of the major factor I enjoyed it so much. Funnily enough I was never really into previous Darcys in the past. I am a huge fan of Austen and I like how faithful it is to the text so I didn’t really care much about the zombie side of things, it was an amusing juxtaposition that somehow serves the story well. But hey, the book was hilarious, I’m actually reading it now, but still on chapter 2.

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