An Age Old Parable – Now With Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!

March 9, 2009

I am a movie buff, there’s no hiding that. I prefer the term cineaste, but am probably more readily referred to as a movie geek. I resent that. I suppose this is similar to a wine lover wanting to be thought of as an oenophile rather than a wino.

Anyway, I believe I’m a cineaste because my appreciation for films is highly academic, intelligent, thoughtful, even prosaic, which doesn’t really apply to the term “movie geek”. This is why I feel it my duty to talk about zombies. Yes, zombies.

Not in the general sense — more like in the “randomly inserted into copyright-lapsed classic period romance novel” sense. I give you (drumroll) the new book by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies“.

Take a moment on that. No, I’m not joking. Click the link if you don’t believe me. Here’s a picture, too.

Yup. It’s a rewriting, sort of, of Jane Austen’s classic about the undeniable romance that occurs between Elizabeth Bennet, the head-strong, independent daughter of a status-challenged British family, and the handsome, though socially inept, Mr. Darcy. Grahame-Smith says the book keeps 85% of the original text and that he just inserts a small subplot including the aforementioned ultraviolent zombie mayhem. Now of course when I was watching the 2005 film version directed by Joe Wright and featuring the attractive yet disturbingly jawed Keira Knightley, the only thing I could think was, “My, this is a lush and heartfealt adaptation of such a classic romance that is satisfying on every level. But why, then, do I feel like it is lacking? Why am I not rooting for Mr. Darcy to get over his sense of class entitlement and just sweep Elizabeth Bennet off her feet and propose to her?” Then, just the other day, it hit me.

It’s because I want to see them get eaten by the walking undead.

Of course. It’s so obvious to me now. The one thing this classic period drama is missing is hordes of flesh eating, bone snapping, petticoat wearing zombie hellspawn to come crash the quaint town of Longbourn and cause an apocalyptic panic of blood, guts, brain eating and the ubiquitous shotgun decapitation. Well, maybe not the last one — I mean, the author probably wants to stay true to the time period. Maybe a musket decapitation instead?

Anyway. The reason that this tickles my movie geek fancy — er, cineaste curiosity, is because it is such a damn fine idea. It’s the type of idea that you hit yourself on the forehead and yell, “Of course. It’s so simple yet so brilliant.” It’s like reaching absolute zero or splitting the atom. It’s a singular achievement in literary history. An idea so good that it would make an amazing, splatterfest of a movie. And it already is.

Before it has even hit shelves, a movie adaptation is already underway. Which means “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” should be hitting your local cineplex by summer of next year. Horse-drawn carriages, flesh feasting and all.

Okay, I suppose I should digress. I tend to get a little verbose. Point #1 is simply this: it’s a great idea. It’s so simple and so absurd, that it catches people’s attention and makes them want more. Which is what a great idea should do. It should leap off the page. It should stick in your head. And it should make you want to see Elizabeth Bennet’s pretty face get munched on by a re-animated corpse. Metaphorically, of course. I would say three words and three conjunctions that does that is a pretty damn good idea.

Now I know not everyone has the affinity for zombies or zombie movies as I do. If you need a quick primer on cinema zombie mayhem go see “Dead Alive” by Peter Jackson. It’s the goriest movie of all time and it’s directed by the guy who did “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Go figure. Anyway, I will set aside that love and act as an impartial third party for this particular case. Verdict: Still a great idea.

This brings me to Point #2: If you have a good idea, act on it. Immediately. If not, it will shrivel up and die. There are so many people with good ideas that if you have one and you don’t act on it, someone else will.

I use “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” not only because it’s an awesome idea but also because of this. For those of you to lazy to link out, it is an article on Variety.com published a week after “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” sold its movie rights. It’s a project called “Pride and Predator”. Again, not a joke. Here’s the description.

Will Clark is set to direct “Pride and Predator,” which veers from the traditional period costume drama when an alien crash lands and begins to butcher the mannered protags, who suddenly have more than marriage and inheritance to worry about.

Now here is where things become interesting, because “Pride and Predator” just doesn’t sound like as great an idea to me. Let’s analyze that. I might be more pre-disposed to zombies feasting on brains than aliens butchering demure, Victorian-era socialites. To me “Dawn of the Dead” trumps “Predator” any day of the week. I am going to set aside my zombie love though, again, and act as an unbiased third party. “Pride and Predator” isn’t as good an idea because it came in second. Plain and simple.

Everyone who read or heard about “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” thought, “Damn, that’s awesome!” Then when “Pride and Predator” came out a week later people turned up their noses at the idea. Fanboys and forum rats cried foul at how obviously the idea was a rip-off of one that was “so much better” (read: first). Really, both are the same. They are merely mash-ups: two things that shouldn’t be put together but are, to hilarious or disastrous results.

So whatever happened, be it “Pride and Predator” being the first violent, non-human destruction throw into a Jane Austen novel or not, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” was the first to market. And for that, aliens slaughtering Mr. Darcy will always be seen as a copy of a great idea rather than a great idea itself.

So, moral of the story: Have a good idea? Act on it now! Or else. And toss in some carnage while you’re at it. Cuz who doesn’t love a little blood spill now and then?

Good day.