Movie Name: Pontypool
Studio: Ponty Up Pictures
Release Date(s): September 6, 2008 (Toronto International Film Festival)/March 6, 2009
MPAA Rating: R
Shock jock DJ Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie) finds himself stuck on a small town Pontypool where his rants and rages aren’t appreciated by his producer Sydney Briar (Lisa Houle) and his assistant Laurel-Ann Drummond (Georgina Reilly). After a strange encounter on the way to work with a woman who disappears into the dark, Mazzy finds more strange occurrences around Pontypool. When callers begin talking about riots, cannibalism, and murder, Mazzy and his crew find themselves trapped…and they could just be spreading the terror.
Directed by Bruce McDonald, Pontypool is a horror film based on Tony Burgess’ novel Pontypool Changes Everything published in 1995. The movie was well received.
The story was originally created around the idea of Orson Welles’ famous broadcast of War of the Worlds on October 30, 1938. The radio broadcast began to spawn panic among listeners who never heard the disclaimer that it was adapting H.G. Wells’ 1898 book. Here in Pontypool, the idea of viral language is explored.
I really like this concept, but I don’t necessary love the execution. I realize it would be hard to believe if you started getting reports at a small radio station of riots and killings and radio stations also have their share of yahoos that call them. Despite this, Mazzy and his producers take so long to try to confirm the events going on…they don’t seem to follow normal procedures to try to find out if what they are hearing is true.
What I do like is this idea that language can be viral. It is like when you get a word stuck in your head or you see a written word and it all the sudden seems wrong. The word just gets stuck there and seems to pop-up everywhere…this is kind of what is happening to the “zombies”, but it is a hard concept to explain and execute. It is like Pontypool becomes the source of the Tower of Babel and everyone stops making sense.
The movie takes an almost minimal Twilight Zone approach to the story that is very minimalistic. There are very little special effects and the zombies aren’t very terrifying visually. McHattie does a nice time holding it together and a lot of the good visuals are actually just the look of a radio station. The movie also has a fun little unrelated coda after the credits that almost has McHattie and Houle entering a Sin City type world.
Pontypool is an experimental film, and it won’t work for everyone. It marginally works for me, but I think the movie could have been much better. It is a good concept and I’m sure the book is able to explore it more thoroughly than the movie. Kill is kiss.
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