Friday, October 31, 2014

Review: Pontypool

Happy Halloween, everybody. As you may well know by now I’m not a huge fan of horror films (like, at all) but I had such a fun time reviewing Evil Dead last year that I decided to review another horror film today. My friend Travis, upon hearing I was thinking of reviewing a horror flick, got super excited and sent me a list of films he thought I would like because he’s a giant fan of the genre and is also history’s greatest monster. Despite reservations I decided to take him up on his suggestions and watch the 2008 film Pontypool which is based on the 1995 novel Pontypool Changes Everything by Tony Burgess (who also wrote the screenplay). It’s a zombie flick…kind of. The fact is that the film is part of the zombie genre of horror but plays itself differently from the norm.

Directed by Bruce McDonald Pontypool is a low-budget Canadian feature that didn’t get a heck of a lot of screen time in the USA until finally being released on home video in 2010. Despite this the film received a lot of favorable reviews over the years. Perhaps now something of a cult film whether or not it can overturn my long established dislike of the genre is the question of the day.

Full review after the jump.


As a former radio DJ I find this film especially spooky

Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie) is a former shock jock radio personality now working in the small town of Pontypool, which clearly irritates him. On a particularly snowy day while Grant does his morning radio show with his crew, producer Sydney (Lisa Houle) and technical assistant Laurel-Ann (Georgina Reilly), a series of strange events unfold throughout town. Reports of unruly mobs and brutal acts of violence begin to come through to the station. As Grant continues to report on the growing insanity from the dubious safety of his studio it slowly becomes clear Pontypool has become ground zero for something unfathomably horrifying.

The movie also manages to be funny at times. It’s not a comedy by any stretch but even in some particularly tense moments the film will crack a joke or two; it’s an appreciated gesture.

Pontypool is likely best known for its unique take on the zombie genre and after watching the flick I find that even with that high praise we are underselling it. Closer to the “infected” subgenre of zombie films the manner of how the virus works and spreads in something I had never seen before. Hell, I never even would have conceived of it. Combined with the aforementioned subtle nature of the film’s scariness it makes of a pretty unique movie. However there is a price. I won’t go into details to keep from spoiling anything but what we learn about the infected is so high concept that I had trouble wrapping my head around. It ultimate asks suggestion about the nature of life and, indeed, reality itself and I started having flashbacks to my philosophy classes from college. That’s not a good thing. They do not go so far with the concept as they could have, partly because like any good zombie film the explanation for the infection needs to be vague at best, but even as it is it will not make a lot of sense to the average movie watcher. It’s this issue (more so than its small budget and lack of set changes) that would have hurt this movie in the Box Office.

We could have used more of this character
Though maybe I'm just saying that because I think Georgina Reilly is cute
The characters are…okay. There’s nothing really bad to say about any of the acting or the characterizations but I found it difficult to connect with the cast. By the time the terror really starts going I found myself not really giving a shit if they lived or died; that is the exact opposite what needs to happen in a film like this. That said Stephen McHattie’s “radio voice’ was deep, soothing and awesome and we all need to acknowledge this.

I tried very hard to choose a score for this movie as I found myself on the fence after watching it. On the one hand this is a movie experience unlike anything I had ever encountered but on the other hand it was kind of a mind f**k and the characters, well-acted as they were, didn’t do much for me. In the end I think I will recommend this film for people like me who aren’t into mindless gore and prefer story to violence. Plus, as I’ve said repeatedly, the mechanics of the “zombie apocalypse” of the movie is such a interesting take that everyone should see it just for that alone. Of course if you thought Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake was pinnacle of zombie horror you might as well pass as I don’t’ think Pontypool was written with you in mind.

Grant, accusing the producers of being cheap asses
I give Pontypool 4 Adorable Pandas out of 5 


Pros

-Very scary, very unnerving

-One of the most unique spins on the horror genre out there

-Great plot structure

-Surprisingly funny

Cons 

-Some aspects of the plot may be hard to comprehend

-The minimal budget may not please everyone.








Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. SHIT. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please.

1 comment:

  1. FUN FACT: the original treatment for the film called for absolutely no visuals on screen other than sound wave patterns as dialogue and noises occurred, essentially making it a modern day radio play

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