Shock-jock radio D.J. Grant Mazzy has, once again, been kicked off the Big City airwaves and now the only job he can get is the early morning show at CLSY Radio in the small town of Pontypool, which broadcasts from the basement of the small town's only church. What begins as another boring day of school bus cancellations due to yet another massive snow storm quickly becomes deadly. Bizarre reports start piling in of people developing strange speech patterns and committing horrendous acts of violence. But, there's nothing coming in on the news wires. So...is this really happening? Before long, Grant and the small staff at CLSY find themselves trapped in the radio station as they discover that this insane behavior taking over the town is caused by a deadly virus that may be spreading as a direct result of their radio transmissions. Now, they must shut up or die.
Directed by: Bruce McDonald
. Starring: Stephen McHattie
, Lisa Houle
, Georgina Reilly
, Hrant Alianak
, Rick Roberts
, Daniel Fathers
, Beatriz Yuste
, Tony Burgess
, Boyd Banks
, Hannah Fleming
, Rachel Burns
, Laura Nordin
, Louis Negin
. Music by: Claude Foisy
We already have a great Canadian zombie movie, FIDO. And one wonders, in any case, how broad a palette the zombie actually offers for the imaginative film maker. How far can you take these characters? The zombie has none of the biological zest for bloodsexdeath offered by the vampire, or the manbeast redemptiondamnation dualities of the werewolf. The zombie is basically a target for our worst tendencies: to view the mass of people around us as mindless automatons-'dehumanized objects of slaughter through which an entire sub-culture, mostly of young men, exercises its gun fantasies. We, the viewers, can fantasize BEING a vampire or werewolf, but no one fantasizes about being a zombie. We only fantasize about killing one-'killing, in fact, as many as possible.
PONTYPOOL does, in fact, offer dehumanized mobs thirsting for blood, but there ends the resemblance with the standard-template zombie film. During the first half, considerable suspense is built as the appearance and spread of this plague of violence is conveyed completely through reports coming into the community-centre studio of a radio station in the (fictional) Ontario small town of Pontypool. Just as the viewer wonders if complete claustrophobia is inevitable-'is anyone going to ever go outside?-'these murderous mobs-'their only fixation, besides killing, seems to be words and repetition-'arrive at the station and the siege begins.
Guns, axes, chainsaws-'none of these are used against the invading force, because there are none at hand. The eventual resolution is as unusual as any in recent genre films, and provides a mind-twisting and even touching climax. Writers-'of screenplays, or books, or reviews, or whatever-'cherish the idea that all the human race's problems could be resolved if we could just understand each other. If only we could just really, really communicate. PONTYPOOL offers a wry and much more challenging resolution-'in effect accepting and embracing the tension of miscommunication as a way of living in the world-'in this case, as a way of rejecting the virus of violence. But does this revelation arrive in time, as those Quebec armed forces invade Pontypool and the final countdown (in French) begins?
Okay, it's not as funny as SHAUN OF THE DEAD, or as grandly conceived as FIDO, but it is beautifully acted. As the media outcast Grant Mazzy, Stephen McHattie pits his smooth baritone, alternately contemptuous and anxious, against his mothering producer (Lisa Houle) and a rookie engineer (Georgina Reilly). In the midst of crisis, he is forced to look past his own bitterness and ego to acknowledge that they, too, are battling for their humanity. Another major player, Hrant Alianak, plays the dubious Dr. Mendez, a local physician of dubious reputation who provides clues to the nature of this spreading infection.
Bear in mind that the English-Canadian film industry is struggling to produce films that Canadians will actually go to see--but it is hampered by an American-dominated distribution system. I heard about PONTYPOOL through enthusiastic media fanfare, and watched for it to come to Hamilton, a city of half a million people just outside of Toronto. Month after month, waves of US car-chase and barf-comedy films came and went in the local cinemas, but PONTYPOOL never arrived. When it was released on DVD in July, I went to buy a copy at our downtown independent music and film store, and they'd never heard of it. This is what Canadian film makers have to deal with in their struggle to create a popular national cinema.
Finally, it is here. Sure, go see the latest George Romero, but first check out PONTYPOOL.
Review by commander_zero from the Internet Movie Database.