Night #21: Pontypool

A review coming up just as soon as I talk your ear off…

Once popular DJ Grant Mazzy now resides in the quiet Canadian town of Pontypool. He reads out obituaries, he informs residents of School closures, and he drinks Whiskey with his Coffee in the mornings. On his journey to work he meets a woman that babbles at him incoherently before vanishing into the night and while he’s on the air reports start coming in of people going a little crazy…

Pontypool started life as a book (Pontypool Changes Everything) and was also a Radioplay (Which can be found here – Though it seems the Radioplay is just the dialogue track from the film edited down – with some added sound effects). It largely takes place within the confines of the small Ontario radio station, save for a few shots of the outside and instead it offers us this microcosm of a catasrophe. The action is almost all relayed via phone calls into the station, and is infinitely more disturbing for it.

Film is obviously a visual medium, so we’re used to seeing scenes of crowds going wild; look at the countless zombie films we’ve all seen. We know how it works. But when you take those visual cues away it offers something infinitely more disturbing. We’ve already seen a person eat someone else, we notice the fake blood, notice the trickery on display and though it may look realistic, we always know that it isn’t. But to have someone describe those scenes? Well that’s different. It’s more involving as an audience because there’s nothing to disconnect us from the action. You hear something and your mind immediately fills in the blanks, whether you want it to or not. That, at the end of the day, is the true intention of a horror film. It’s a great testiment to Pontypool that it’s had me on edge more than any other film I’ve seen on the list thus far.

The film isn’t perfect. The introduction of a Doctor during the second half of the film suffers from over explaining everything, though in defence of the film there is the implication that he, and everyone else, is just trying to make sense of something that’s nonsensical.

Again I’m being vague with a film like this because it doesn’t make sense to spoil exactly what’s happening. Suffice to say the film is very much about our use of language – it’s not just coincidence that our protagonist is a talk radio host – and how the media influences what we do, or how we break down, as a society. Again it’s not a new metaphor, but it’s definitely a new way of approaching it. It speaks to why Horror can be great as a genre, that a low budget direct-to-DVD film can say more about us as people and as a society than ten mainstream films ever could.

Before I leave this review I have to give full credit to Stephen McHattie. The veteran character actor gets a starring role here and delivers ten-fold. He’s fantastic, like a Howard Stern who’s been rendered broke and unemployable after countless lawsuits. He’s constantly on edge, and clearly in over his head for most of the film, plus the film throws in more than a few moments where we doubt his sanity.

Ignore the DVD cover though, it makes him look like a half dead Lesbian.


Up Next: We finish our people going crazy trifecta with The Crazies (Remake).


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