Directed By: Bruce McDonald
Starring: Stephen McHattie, Lisa Houle, Georgina Reilly
Tag line: "Words lose their meaning when you repeat them"
Trivia: Pontypool was simultaneously produced as a motion picture and a radio play
It’s early morning in the small Ontario town of Pontypool, and DJ Grant Mazzy (Steven McHattie) is preparing to go on the air. A former shock jock, Grant was fired from his last job for saying things he shouldn’t have, and because of this his producer Sydney Briar (Lisa Houle) keeps him on a short leash, something that doesn’t sit well with either Grant or his assistant, Laurel Ann (Georgina Reilly). What starts as a typically slow morning in Pontypool soon takes a terrifying turn when the station’s ‘Eye in the Sky’, Ken Loney, reports a riot is breaking out in town (voiced by Rick Roberts, Ken isn’t actually off the ground when making his reports. Instead, he broadcasts from a nearby location as helicopter sounds play in the background). Grant and the others listen on in horror as the chaos spreads, sending Ken running for cover. For some unknown reason, the citizens of Pontypool gve started to turn on their own, brutalizing and killing one another, all the while repeating a single word (which differs from rioter to rioter). Eventually, Grant and the others, with the help of Dr. Mendez (Hrant Aliakan), who came to the station looking for shelter, realize that a strange epidemic has broken out, which has somehow attached itself to the English language! As the situation outside grows worse, Grant, Sydney, and Laurel Ann find that they’re not even safe in their underground control booth, and before long, the throngs of infected are knocking on their door...
With Pontypool, director Bruce McDonald proves the old adage that “less is more”, crafting a gripping, often intense horror / thriller that rarely ventures from its central location (aside from a brief opening sequence, when Grant, while on his way to work, encounters a scantily-clad woman wandering the streets during a snowstorm, Pontypool takes place inside the underground studio, where Grant, Sydney, and Laurel Ann listen to the carnage unfold as opposed to seeing it for themselves). The scenes where Ken, who’s mixed up in the middle of it all, is issuing his reports are harrowing, to say the least, and even though we don’t witness it ourselves, his description of events makes us feel as if we’re right there with him. Soon, the virus does make its way to the station, at which point we see (in sometimes brutal, gory fashion) just how deadly it really is.
Holding the film together is star Steven McHattie, perfectly convincing as an arrogant DJ tossed headfirst into a nightmare; and the concept that a virus can be spread via language is both unique and horrifying (every person has their own “trigger”, that word or phrase that opens the door to the infection, and not knowing which word will be the one to set them off makes it all the more frightening). Firing on all cylinders, Pontypool is, from start to finish, a riveting motion picture.