21 May 2010

Pontypool 2008 - REVIEW

Pontypool is an adaptation of the novel "Pontypool Changes Everything" by Tony Burgess, who also wrote the screenplay. The film revolves around "Shock jock" Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie) who has shocked his way off the airwaves in the big city and now hosts the early morning show at CLSY Radio in Pontypool Ontario, which broadcasts from the basement of the town's abandoned church.

What begins as just another boring day of school closures, obituaries and have you seen my cat segments quickly turns deadly when reports of people developing strange speech patterns and committing horrendous acts of violence start flooding in. Before long, Grant and his staff of two, Sydney (Lisa Houle) and Laurel-Ann Georgina Reilly) find themselves trapped in the radio station. They soon discover that this insane behavior taking over the town is actually a deadly virus being spread through the English language. Not the entire language but certain words. Once a person fully understands the infected word the virus then takes over transforming them into vicious cannibals. Now they have to decide, do they stay on the air in the hopes of being rescued or, are they in fact funneling the virus over the airwaves and into the world?

What do you get when you combine a great script, a superb concept and a solid cast? Perfection of course!! That's exactly what director Bruce McDonald and Burgess have achieved with Pontypool. They've proven that a movie doesn't have to be riddled with effects or overflowing with a huge budget to frighten us. The concept is simple... imagine. That's all we have to do. Nothing is out of the question with this movie because it's left up to the viewer. And it's amazing what the mind can do with a few suggestions and some good sound effects. The possibilities are limitless. You would think, me being the huge gore freak that I am, I would've hated it. BUT, there's not much they could've put on the screen that compared to the images my warped and twisted mind came up all on it's own.

Just think about it for a second. You're trapped in a basement with no real clue what's happening outside. The only information you have is that zombie like cannibals are surrounding you and any word you or the person next to you says can turn you into one. You don't have to be bitten, spat on or ingest some mucousy liquid. Simply say the word. It's brilliant... talk about a mind fuck.

I had my doubts going in. I wasn't sure if it would hold up against higher caliber zombie flicks like Dawn of the Dead or Night of the Living Dead. I'd heard there wasn't much to it but as always, I had to see to believe. And what I found was an intellectual horror that grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me into submission. Although technically, I'm not sure it can be considered a zombie flick since the attackers aren't really reanimated corpses. They're victims of a virus. Oh well, that's a different discussion.

The most interesting character is, of course, that of the sarcastic and sometimes hateful Grant Mazzy. McHattie does a terrific job stepping into a rare starring role and giving us an honest performance. There's a bit of sporadic and very subtle comedy, like the "I forgot to give her her valentine." comment as the chick is bashing her face into the sound booth glass. And the voice, that voice is like butter to me. Yes, I know how that sounds. No, I don't really care.

Houle does a decent job as the tight laced producer. Her character is in a constant struggle to keep the loose lipped Mazzy under control while trying to piece together incoming information. The conflict between the two of them creates quite a bit of tension throughout the entire film. We also have the "technical cowgirl", Reilly, though not around for very long, starts off as a star struck Mazzy fan then transforms into a pretty creepy virus victim. She's also the first and only character we actually SEE transform into one of these mysterious cannibal like creatures. Then there's Dr. Mendez Hrant Alianak. I've read many negative reviews and heard comments about his inroduction into the film but I found his character useful enough. After all, he is the one that figures out the whole English language thing. He also brings in quite a bit of comedy relief, especially when he gets infected and starts randomly speaking in German.

I'll admit, there are some things in the film that could've been better. For example the makeup work on the visiting singers was just terrible. BUT, I've also heard that it was intentional and meant to ramp up Mazzy with the ridiculousness of it all. No one can say for sure except those that made the film. Think they'll ever tell?

If you're looking for a film that is full of gore and action, don't even bother with this film. The gore quotient is lower than my SAT scores and the action is equal to that of a geeky virgin. BUT, you'll also be missing some serious fun. This is a film very few people have attempted and even less have succeed in doing. I found it very intense and suspenseful and very well made. It's a definite MUST SEE!

"Pontypool my Pontypool."

1 comment:

  1. I tend to agree with you. This is a zombie film that isn't for everyone. It brings a unique, and needed, concept to the horror genre, but doesn't bring the expected carnage. But I think that's ok. I like it when a horror movie comes along that feels real with characters that have depth. I've had enough of early 80's stereotypical characters in grind-house horror flicks.
    I also got the chance to review this film on my new blog. I'm just getting started and would love some feedback from a critic. Check it out if you can.