The Horror Honeys: WiHM: Zombies and Classic Literature

WiHM: Zombies and Classic Literature

A Guest Honey Zombie Expose by Catherine

Three reasons why Jane Eyre deserves the zombie horror treatment rather than Pride & Prejudice

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies hits theaters this weekend and I was lucky enough to avoid even seeing the trailer until earlier today. It's not even on my, “Well I should see it because it's part of the modern horror culture now” list. Let someone else fall on that concealed garter blade while I properly explain why I will not endorse this dreck.

2009 – Pop-culture competitions are still a fun thing to do, Pirates vs. Ninjas vs. Robots, ad nauseum. The parody novel Pride & Prejudice & Zombies hits store shelves to generally good reviews. Author Seth Grahame-Smith credits his editor, Jason Rekulak;

All the angry feels.
“He had had this sort of long-gestating idea of doing some kind of mashup, he called it. He didn't know what it was, he just knew there was something to it. He had these lists, and on one side he had a column of War and Peace and Crime and Punishment and Wuthering Heights and whatever public domain classic literature you can think of. And on the other side he would have these phenomena like werewolves and pirates and zombies and vampires. He called me one day... and he said, all I have is this title, and I can't stop thinking about this title. And he said: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. For whatever reason, it just struck me as the most brilliant thing I'd ever heard.”
[Grossman 2009]

That's right, they started with the title and worked backward – injecting violence, bloodshed, the undead, and ninjas into a classic piece of literature. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for some ultra violent nonsense, it just has to be in the right vehicle. Austen's Pride & Prejudice was chosen because it's the low-hanging fruit of classic lit. There have been many popular adaptations and I would argue that the general plot is almost as well known as Romeo and Juliet in the public consciousness.

Pride & Prejudice is a comedy of manners set in Regency England – and that is what makes it entirely wrong for a good, actually horrific, re-imagining. Fear not, there is a better alternative that I would Kickstart the hell out of: Jane Eyre. The heroine a zombie infested Britain needs. Here are three reasons why Jane Eyre would be a better and more satisfying horror mashup with modern zombie pop culture.

1. Set in Victorian England, Jane Eyre is a Gothic tale already filled with dark hallways, dreary moors, and a general sense that life is hard and then you die. Why can't those moors be scattered with the shambling deceased? The wilds of rural England described by Bronte could easily be perceived as a post-apocalyptic land depopulated due to zombie outbreak.

2. We first meet Jane as a young orphan, a ward of her cruel aunt. In the original tale her parents are taken by typhus. I mean is it that much of a stretch that Jane's parents fell victim to the greyed and slimy maw of a Victorian zombie?

3. As a young adult free in the world, Jane's first governess position takes her to Thornfield Hall where she meets the tortured soul of Mr. Rochester and his ward, her pupil, Adele. And here, dear reader, is where it gets really good. The enormous estate is run with a skeleton crew since the lord of the manor is rarely in residence. Naturally, Mr. Rochester finds reasons to stay around Thornfield once the “plain and little” Jane arrives on the scene.

Look at that desolate countryside!
Just BEGGING to be filled with walkers!
But Mr. Rochester hides a secret; a terrible secret locked in an upstairs room and guarded by a silent matron. As the love between Mr. Rochester and Jane grows, his secret becomes harder and harder to keep.
Woodcut by Fritz Eichenberg 1943
 depicting the burned out husk of Thornfield Hall – Spooky!
Alright, I can't keep his secret any longer – it's the crux of my argument. Spoiler alert to those who might want to actually read this fantastic story.

Mr. Rochester is already married. Married to a goddamn madwoman in the attic. The result of an arranged marriage when he was younger and under his father's thumb, Mr. Rochester is burdened by the fact that he cannot divorce – it's a great period piece on class, gender, perception of the mentally ill, and personal morality aside from religious conviction. But let's get down to the nitty-freaking-gritty. There is already a scene in the book in which a pivotal character is bitten and grievously injured by the madwoman in the attic. What's more, when Jane and Mr, Rochester are reunited in the resolution of the novel, the reader discovers that Mr. Rochester is now a widower. A widower missing his left hand and his eyesight due to a terrible fire than his unstable wife set in a perceived attempt to kill him and herself. What drama! What excitement! Why, oh why couldn't this have been adapted for the silver screen? I am sorely tempted to go into detail as to how such plot points could be filled in and expanded upon, but I fear I have gone on too long already. Also, if you can't see what a more fertile and promising horror premise Jane Eyre would be as compared to Pride & Prejudice, then I bid you adieu!

This is the trailer from the 2011 film that did a remarkable job capturing the gothic elements of the book. Just picture it with more blood and rotting flesh!

This still is from PP&Z. But don't think about that. Now put this lovely zombie walking the moors surrounding Thornfield. You know it's the better choice. The dark, more horrific, choice that we deserve! (Complete with an R-rating – it's my movie pitch, so deal with it).

Do YOU agree with my assessment? 

Guest Honey Bio:
Catherine largely plays behind the scenes of Northwest Horror Podcast. From curating the blog, twitter, and instagram accounts , as well as handling the majority of public outreach, she has recently stepped in front of the podcast mic and has a few tangential episodes under her belt. A self-proclaimed scaredy Cat, she loves a good ghost story – no matter the sweaty palms. To get a better look into what makes her horror heart beat, check out this blogpost!

Eager to dive deeper into the horror community Cat looks for events that showcase independent authors, artists, and filmmakers.

The Northwest Horror Podcast is available on iTunes and Stitcher as well as through our blog!