Pontypool is one of those film’s I’d always seen up in the “Netflix recommends” corner but never really did anything about. Finally, I decided to Google it and was surprised by my findings. What I thought was another shlocky horror movie was actually a much more thought provoking flick. Based on Tony Burgess’ novel “Pontypool Changes Everything”, Pontypool is a claustrophobic thriller that uses the power of suggestion to instill fear.
Stephen McHattie (who you probably know as Elaine’s manipulative psychiatrist on Seinfeld) plays Grant Mazzy, a former shock jock turned radio-news announcer in the isolated town of Pontypool, Ontario. It’s the dead of winter when Grant and his staff get a report of an unexplained violent riot outside a medical facility and it doesn’t take long to discover that people are starting to change. Uniquely enough, it is through the spread of language that people are becoming infected and turning into violent, zombie-like beings.
The virus works in three steps: 1. You begin to repeat a word. 2. Your language becomes scrambled and confused. 3. You become so distraught over your inability to communicate that you try to chew your way through the mouth of another. It’s a little out there but it’s a unique concept. If you think about it, all forms of violence stem from individuals inability to communicate with each other. I never really thought about that until Pontypool. I admire this film reaching for something new, even if it does comes up short in a few spots.
The entire film is shot from inside Grant Mazzy’s radio station and though I admire the film’s approach to shooting a viral outbreak from an isolated perspective, it does drag. The film is so verbal that I often wonder why it even needed to be a movie? Stephen McHattie has a great voice but I can’t see the justification in needing to see him or anyone. If the audience is not going to see the outbreak, why do we need to see anything? It’s kind of a love/hate relationship that leaves me with a so-so response. I love how bold and different this film is but it leaves me wanting so much more.