Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Starring Stephen McHattie, Lisa Houle, Hrant Alianak, Georgina Reilly
Directed by Bruce McDonald
Zombies come in all shapes and sizes from fresh out of the ground to via viral infection. Just when you think that you’ve seen it all, along comes a filmmaker with a movie that offers fans something new in an at times stale sub-genre. Bruce McDonald’s Pontypool is an unforgettable effort. One that will have you clutching your seat one second and gasping in horror the next.
We meet radio personality Grant Mazzy (an incredible McHattie, who turns in nothing short of a tour-de-force performance) on the way to his new gig as the morning show host of a radio station in Pontypool, Ontario, Canada. It’s too damned early, too damned cold, and Grant is appropriately pissed off about having to take a job that he feels is way below him. Still, you’ve got to pay the bills, right? Besides, how challenging of a task could it be hosting a no-brainer of a radio show for a really small town? What could go wrong? Unfortunately, too many things.
Things begin on an uneventful note. There’s a kid oriented musical act coming in to perform, the news helicopter (read: a guy in a car with sound F/X playing in the background) is doing its thing, and the biggest news story of the day is the cold weather. Then out of nowhere something extraordinary begins to happen. While delivering the daily forecast from the chopper, the weather guy notices that crowds of rowdy people are gathering at the local clinic. Before you know it, a full scale riot erupts. Walls are torn down, people are getting trampled, and even worse innocent victims are being … eaten. This all unfolds via satellite and is being broadcast to the station’s listeners live as it happens. In an instant simplicity quickly transforms into chaos, and neither Mazzy, his audience, nor the world as we know it will ever be the same.
But what is happening? Why are these people going crazy? Could it be some form of chemical exposure, or maybe even the outbreak of a new and deadly flu bug? Nope. Not that simple. As the film unfolds, it becomes apparent that certain words in the English language have become infected, thereby causing the people who hear or say them to transform into murderous cannibals. Imagine what impact infected speech can have on a morning talk show host. In short … what a brilliantly original idea.
What’s amazing about Pontypool is that the action never leaves the confines of the radio station; yet, the severity and intensity of the situation are amped up to near incomprehensible levels. The action in this film unfolds through news reports and, more importantly, through the viewer’s imagination. Believe me when I tell you that hearing the carnage can be just as scary and emotionally effective as seeing it with your very eyes. Director Bruce McDonald has expertly crafted what is perhaps one of the most intensely frightening films I’ve seen in quite some time.
For those wondering … yes, the terror isn’t just audible. Eventually these “things” reach Mazzy and company’s doorstep and lay siege to the station. The only area in which things get a little derailed is the ending. In theory I know what was supposed to be happening, but things became a little murky and convoluted, and as a result the constant state of terror and fascination that Pontypool has held you in begins to loosen its otherwise vice-like grip. That’s far from a deal breaker though. This flick is one hell of a ride that rarely lets you catch your breath.
Riddled with nail-biting tension and scenes that are quite simply scary as hell, Pontypool as of now is on my best of list for 2009. If you happen to catch it at a festival, make sure you stay until after the credits for a mind-bending little treat! Do whatcha gotta do. Catch the sickness if you can! Pontypool delivers the chills.
4 out of 5
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