Thursday, February 2, 2017

Pride and Predjudice and Zombies (2016)

Back in 2009, author Seth Grahame-Smith started a new literary genre by adding a zombie threat to Jane Austen's classic novel Pride and Prejudice.  The result became a best seller, launching a slew of other mixes of historical figures and classic works with modern horror elements.

As expected, a film studio bought the rights to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  But it took years before the film was produced and released into theaters.  By that time, the literary craze sparked by the novel had run its course and such mashups were now being made for the Syfy channel, not cinemas.

The film deals with Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) and her sisters, as their mother tries to find them suitable husbands in a country under siege from the undead.  The Bennet girls are all accomplished zombie killers, as self defense has become a desirable trait for young English women to learn, but they still face a dismal future if they are unmarried when their father dies.

It appears few gentlemen want to dance with the lady 
wearing a katana under her petticoat.

Elizabeth's sister Jane (Bella Heathcote) finds a suitor, the rich Mr. Bingley (Douglas Booth), much to her mother's delight.  Elizabeth catches the eye of Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley), a leader in the fight against the zombies.  However, Elizabeth's attitude towards him sours as she learns of his past, mostly through George Wickham (Jack Huston), who tells her Darcy cheated him out of his inheritance.  Darcy also convinces Bingley to leave the area, destroying his growing relationship with Jane and enraging Elizabeth.

The book is a fun read, but the film deviates from Grahame-Smith's novel in an attempt to build up the action.  The added story elements, though set up early on, work against the film and compound some flaws in the script.  As I'm about to discuss those changes, please be aware of MINOR SPOILERS in the next four paragraphs.

Wickham takes Elizabeth to the Church of Lazarus, where some of the undead have retained their humanity by taking a communion of pig's brains, rather than feast upon human victims.  Wickham hopes Elizabeth will help him convince Darcy's aunt, Lady Catherine (Lena Headey), to forge a truce with the sentient zombies and enlist their aide to prevent an attack by the more feral creatures.  But Lady Catherine ignores his advice, setting the stage for a large, climatic battle.

The idea of some zombies retaining their intelligence is set up early in the film, when one tries to issue a warning to Elizabeth before Darcy kills it.  The less-than-hostile actions of this zombie are never investigated by any of the characters, which seems rather odd.  And as Elizabeth and her sisters discover zombies setting traps to ensnare fresh victims, no one shows any real curiosity in the change in zombie behavior.

Oh look.  A talking zombie.
That's odd.
Let's kill it now!

The problems are compounded during the film's climax.  In order to rescue Elizabeth's sister, Darcy feeds the sentient zombies human brains.  His reasons for doing so are unclear, and do nothing to negate the fact that he's added more soldiers to the ranks of the ravenous undead.

Darcy sets off on the rescue mission alone, as if he expects the very capable Elizabeth to stay behind the battle lines and await his return.  It's not a surprise, as the script sets up Darcy to be the lead in ways I will not spoil here, but it has the unfortunate effect of casting Elizabeth in the role of the dues ex machina, rather than a true participant.


The film hints early on of an inevitable battle between the humans and a large zombie army, but the budget appears to have curtailed the filmmaker's plans.  The skirmishes either take place off screen, or simply involve zombies running about as Darcy and Elizabeth race about avoiding them.  The film would have been better served had the filmmakers abandoned the idea of a massive battle, rather than trying to work around their inability to show it.

There was a big battle here.
See, I have a sword, and there are soldiers.
Too bad you missed all the action.

And by lessening the epic scale of the zombie/human conflict, the budget could have been focused on more minor skirmishes.  The early onscreen fights are not very energetic or interesting, and the characters rely more on firearms than the swords and knives they carry at all times.  A bit more time and money spent to improve the fight choreography and give the cast stage combat training would have paid off more than trying to end the film on an epic note.

The cast is good, but struggle with a script that is too serious.  I'm not saying the film needed to be more comedic, or the actors play their roles for laughs (as Matt Smith does, making his character more off putting than humorous).  But the script needed to have more fun with the concept, rather than have the actors acting as if they were in an installment of Masterpiece Theater.  Only Headey seems ready to have some fun with her role, with her first scene showing she's ready to chew up the scenery.  But it appears the budget wasn't able to cover replacing the sets, as her role can only be considered a glorified walk on. 

They should have let her turn the scenery into mulch.
It would have been glorious.

But the film's biggest sin is that, for a movie about a group of sisters ready to battle the undead, the film is light on letting the ladies kick ass.  It obvious they are always well armed, as the film includes a scene of them dressing for a ball while tucking multiple weapons under their dresses.  But we only get a single scene of them fighting as a unit and, as I mentioned earlier, it's too short. True, the use of firearms is a safer option when fighting zombies, but just look at the poster and tell me you didn't want to see these ladies in their finest gown slashing through a bunch of zombies as often as possible.

We only get to kick ass once, sisters.
Let's make it count!

And the script does the main sisters no favors, cranking up the romance and putting their warrior instincts fall to the wayside.  Jane is reduced to the role of a jilted romantic interest, never taking up a weapon soon after Bingley leaves.  And Elizabeth, who should be the main character, isn't given enough action.  Her fight against Darcy, as she confronts him with her misguided assumptions about his character, lacks any spark or ability to communicate the emotions either are feeling.  And, as I mentioned before, Elizabeth's role during the climax is quite disappointing.

Even Headley's character, a major ass-kicker in the novel, never gets a chance to fight, her combat skills only seen during the aftermath of a battle during a flashback.  Rather than letting the women take the main stage, writer/director Burr Steers sets up a standard male fantasy troupe, the brave male warrior finding a hot chick who can fight, but might change her ways on her wedding day.

I will mention, for the gore hounds, this film is rated PG-13 and relies on CGI, not practical, effects.  This shouldn't be a surprise, as most studios assume a R-rated won't bring in a large audience.

But increasing the gore wouldn't have help Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  The film had the potential to be a fun little romp, with women dressed in formal gowns kicking zombie ass, some romantic entanglements and a bit of campy fun thrown in for good measure.  Instead, the zombie mayhem is constrained by a tight budget, most of the cast is too somber, and the warrior women promised in the poster often are given little to do other than pine over their relationship woes.  To paraphrase Austen and Grahame-Smith, "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a film-goer watching one scene of ass-kicking women must be in want of more scenes of ass-kicking women." 

Too bad this scene wasn't in the film.
It would have been glorious.

SPECIAL UPDATE: First Friday at Wells and Verne with artist John Donald Carlucci has been delayed.

The First Friday at Wells and Verne (734 E Burnside in Portland, OR) opening of the work of local artist John Donald Carlucci has been delayed due to the possibility of severe winter weather on Friday, February 3.  The opening will take place on Friday, February 10, at 6 to 9 pm.  Be sure to show up if you can attend.  For more details, visit the Facebook Event Page.

It is possible other events might be cancelled, so be sure to check with the venue should the weather cause hazardous driving conditions tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A Winter Storm Warning might put a freeze on the weekend events happening under The Shadow Over Portland!

Yes, it appears snow is back in the forecast for parts of the Willamette Valley and areas in Clark and Cowlitz County in Washington.  The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning from Thursday evening to late Friday night.  The area could see up to 2 inches of snow accumulation, followed by up to two-fifths of an inch of freezing rain before the storm is over.

So, why is The Shadow Over Portland reporting on the weather, rather than diving into the Weekly Update, you might ask.  Well, remember those snowmen some of you knocked over during the last storm?  I warned you they'd come back again some day.  And be looking for payback....

Remember how you laughed when you pushed over our friend Bob?
Well, we'll be the ones laughing now, tough guy.

The other reason is events listed in this update might be canceled or rescheduled if roads get icy.  And heavy freezing rainfall can lead to downed trees and potential power outages.  So should the weather get severe this weekend, please contact the venue of any event you plan to attend and make sure it has not been canceled.

Let's just hope this storm warning ends up being a false alarm.  Icy roads and angry snowmen are no way to start the month of February.

In non-weather related news, the schedule for the Portland International Film Festival After Dark program has been announced and you'll find details on the first three films at the end of this update.  For a look at the entire schedule, as well as other events taking place throughout the Pacific Northwest, please visit the Horror Calendar.  And keep checking back, as the calendar is updated every few days.

If you'd like your event listed on The Shadow Over Portland, just email me at and I'll add it to the site.  Remember, I do not charge for listings, and your event will be seen by readers across the Pacific Northwest every week.

And please, should you attend any of the events listed here, let the organizers know you read about it at The Shadow Over Portland!

And now, here's the weekly update for the first half of February!


The first big bug movie, and the first radioactive monster film, Them! plays at The Academy Theater (7818 SE Stark St in Portland, OR) through February 2.  Nuclear tests have mutated ants into giant monsters, threatening to take over the world!  Only James Arness and James Whitmore can save humanity from THEM!  Showtimes are 5:10 and 9:40 pm daily.  Visit The Academy Theater website for more details.


Mental Trap Escape Room Games (3855 SW Murray Blvd in Beaverton, OR) has opened the Dead End Alley Ghost Trap, an Escape Room Game encompassing a real City Alley!  Your team of 4 to 10 players are a group of Ghost Hunters working to gain access into several buildings to capture escaped ghosts from an Entity Containment Unit breach.  This Escape Room contains lifelike gore and decay, loud noises and realistic collapsing buildings, as well as potential dense fog and strobe lights!  The game is open for a limited time, so be sure to check out the Mental Trap Escape Room Game Facebook Page or Website for all the details.

Open Film Submission

Please visit the Open Film Submission page for details on several local film festival accepting submissions at this time.

February, 2017

Wednesday, February 1

Nazi scientists creating hideous creatures on a remote island...  Sounds like it's time for Weird Wednesday at The Joy Cinema and Pub (11959 SW Pacific Highway in Tigard, OR)!  Prepare to have your senses assaulted by the She Demons tonight at 9:15 pm.  Featuring the voluptuous Irish McCalla (TV's Sheena: Queen of the Jungle back in the 50s) and the Diane Nellis Dancers as the She Demons (yeah, really!), this movie is a cheesy dose of WEIRD for your Humpday evening!!  And a fitting tribute to Ms. McCalla, who passed away on this date in 2002.  As always, admission is FREE, but you must be 21 or older to attend.  Be sure to support The Joy Cinema's mission to keep Wednesdays WEIRD by stopping at the concession stand before the movie for some tasty snacks and beverages.  And do not invoke the wrath of the She Demons by bringing outside food or drinks into the theater with you!  For more details, visit The Joy Cinema website


Church of Film presents Flesh and Fantasy, three tales of the supernatural directed by French auteur Julien Duvivier, tonight at 8 pm at the Clinton Street Theater (2522 SE Clinton St in Portland, OR).  This 1943 Hollywood production stars Edward G. Robinson, Barbara Stanwyck, Charles Boyer and Betty Field.  Admission is a $5 to $8 suggested donation, though no one will be turned away due to a lack of funds.  For more details on the screening, visit the Facebook Event Page

Friday, February 3

First Friday at Wells and Verne (734 E Burnside in Portland, OR) presents the John Donald Carlucci Art Opening tonight from 6 to 9 pm.  For more details, visit the Facebook Event Page.

Saturday, February 4

Howl Con has been cancelled.  For more details on this turn of events, visit the Howl Con website.

Tuesday, February 7

The classic anime, Ghost in the Shell, screens tonight at 7:30 pm at the Guild 45 Theatre (2115 N 45th St in Seattle, WA).  This version is presented in Japanese with English subtitles (the English dub version plays tomorrow: see listing below).  Before the live action version hits theaters, be sure to check out the original version on the big screen!  For more details and a link to advance ticket sales, visit the Guild 45 Theatre website.


The Northwest Horror Pub Quiz takes place tonight at 7:30 pm at Home, A Bar (719 SE Morrison St in Portland, OR).  The top two teams win gift certificates to Home: A Bar, but you can also score individual prizes during the lightning rounds.  You must be 21 or older to attend.  For more details, visit the Facebook Event Page.

Wednesday, February 8

The English dubbed version of the classic anime, Ghost in the Shell, screens tonight at 7:30 pm at the Guild 45 Theatre (2115 N 45th St in Seattle, WA).  Before the live action version hits theaters, be sure to check out the original version on the big screen!  For more details and a link to advance ticket sales, visit the Facebook Event Page.


Ghost in the Shell will also screen at The Hollywood Theatre (4122 NE Sandy Blvd in Portland, OR) tonight at 7:30 pm.  No word on if it is a dubbed or subtitled version at this time.  For more details, and a link to advance ticket sales, visit The Hollywood Theatre website.

Thursday, February 9

The Hoquiam High School Drama Club presents a production of the musical Little Shop of Horrors through Sunday, February 12, at the 7th Street Theatre (313 7th St in Hoquiam, WA).  Showtimes are 7:30 pm through Saturday, February 11, and 2 pm on Sunday, February 12.  For more details, and a list of local businesses selling tickets, visit the 7th Street Theatre website or the Facebook Event Page.


Why Aren't Comics Funny Anymore?, a discussion on humor in comics lead by Charles Brownstein (Executive Director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund) takes place tonight at 7:15 pm at University of Portland (5000 N. Willamette Blvd in Portland, OR).  Panelists include Diana Schutz (editor for Sin City, Grendel and Usagi Yojimbo), Mark Russell (DC's The Flintstones), Shannon Wheeler (Too Much Coffee Man) and MK Reed (The Castoffs).  Admission is free and open to all.  The event takes place at Franz Hall 120, and is co-sponsored by the Garaventa Center.  For more information, and ADA accommodations, call (503) 943-7702 or send an email to

Friday, February 10

The Portland International Film Festival After Dark program kicks off with Oriol Paulo's "Rashomonic" thriller The Invisible Guest tonight at 10:30 pm at the Bagdad Theater (3702 SE Hawthorne Blvd in Portland, OR).  The film is presented in Spanish with English subtitles.  For more details on the film, and a link to advance ticket sales, visit this link.

Saturday, February 11

Coffy in GLORIOUS 35mm at The Hollywood Theatre (4122 NE Sandy Blvd in Portland, OR) with the GLORIOUS Pam Grier in attendance has sold out. 


The Undead Masquerade takes place tonight at Haunted Nightmare (6601 244th St SW in Mountlake Terrace in WA) at 7 pm.  This all ages event invites you to dress up as your favorite undead character and "strut your stuff to some deadly beats."  Tickets are $15 per person, $25 per couple.  For more details, visit the Facebook Event Page.


Terror in Tacoma at Bob's Java Jive, a night of night of bizarre electronic music, takes place tonight at Bob's Java Jive (2102 S Tacoma Way in Tacoma, WA).  The show, featuring Fischkopf Sinfoniker, Noisepoetnobody, Rainbow Wolves and Mudslug, starts at 9 pm (doors open at 8 pm) and the cover is only $5.  You must be 21 or older to attend.  For more details on the event, visit the Facebook Event Page.


Considered by the Portland International Film Festival website to be the "most transgressive film in this year's program," the Mexican horror film We Are the Flesh plays tonight at The Bagdad Theater (3702 SE Hawthorne Blvd in Portland, OR).  Part of the PIFF After Dark series, this film is presented in Spanish with English subtitles, and is for adult audiences only.  You can find more details, and a link to advance ticket sales, at this link.

Sunday, February 12

Shriek: A Women of Horror Film Class is showing The Cabin in the Woods this month.  No further details are available at this time, so check back later in the month, or keep an eye on the Shriek FacebookGroup Page.


The Zymoglyphic Museum (6225 SE Alder in Portland, OR) is open to the public from 11 am to 5 pm today.  For additional details, visit the Facebook Event Page.


PIFF After Dark continues at the Bagdad Theater (3702 SE Hawthorne Blvd in Portland, OR) with A Dark Song tonight at 10:30 pm.  The tale of a grieving mother trying to bring her son back to life "upends audience expectations of how horror films about people trying to resurrect their loved ones ought to operate," according to the PIFF website.  For more details on the film, and a link to advance ticket sales, visit this link.


See you next week!