Monday, April 27, 2015

#1,715. Pontypool (2008)

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 as a result his current producer Sydney Briar (Lisa Houle) is keeping 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 that a riot is breaking out in town (voiced by Rick Roberts, Ken isn’t actually in the air when making these reports. Instead, he broadcasts from a nearby studio as helicopter sounds play in the background). 

Grant and the others listen with horror as the pandemonium spreads, sending Ken running for cover. For unknown reasons, the citizens of Pontypool have turned on each other, brutalizing and killing anyone in their path, 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 showed up at the station looking for shelter, discover that a strange epidemic has broken out, one that has attached itself to the English language! As the situation outside escalates, Grant, Sydney, and Laurel Ann find that they are not even safe in their underground control booth, and before long, throngs of infected are knocking at 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, 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 as the chaos unfolds. The scenes where Ken, who is in the middle of it all, reports on the carnage 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 in the middle of it all. Soon, the virus makes its way to the station, at which point we see (in brutal, gory fashion) just how deadly it really is.

Holding the film together is star Steven McHattie, who is perfectly convincing as the 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” word or phrase that opens the door to the infection, and not knowing which word will eventually set someone off makes it all the more frightening. 

Firing on all cylinders, Pontypool is, from start to finish, a riveting motion picture.

1 comment:

Ben Broadribb said...

Great review of a great film that deserves to be seen by a lot more people.