Night Moves / UK premiere

Pontypool

  • Bruce McDonald /
  • Canada /
  • 2008 /
  • 95 mins

Stephen McHattie, Lisa Houle, Georgina Reilly, Hrant Alianak, Rick Roberts

Mind your language, there are bloodthirsty zombies present.

When a deadly virus breaks out on St. Valentine’s Day in the snowy Ontario town of Pontypool, it falls to morning radio deejay Grant Mazzy to determine the cause and find the cure. This is no ordinary virus, and with the station’s 'man in the sky' reporting vicious, bloody scenes of mob unrest, and a zombie assault imminent, Mazzy – with his producer Sydney and her assistant Laurel – is forced to lock himself in the basement studio until he can make sense of the panicky messages emanating from the terrified hordes outside. As the horror stories multiply and the death toll begins to mount, the film capitalises on its audience’s understanding of the genre, and cleverly reverts to its collective imagination to maximise the horror appeal. Effectively exploiting the claustrophobia of its single location, Pontypool pulls no punches and delivers the requisite shocks with true style. With the violence largely implicit, performances take on the main thrust of driving the narrative. Stephen McHattie delivers a towering central performance as the charismatic and compelling deejay, ably supported by Lisa Houle as his long suffering producer and Georgina Reilly as the canny assistant. Shifting focus from his fascination with the sporadic nature of human thought processes to this study of the viral nature and subconscious power of everyday language, veteran Canadian director Bruce McDonald eschews the split screen complexity of his 2007 hit The Tracey Fragments for this ingeniously simple twist on the zombie theme. Loosely based on Tony Burgess’ novel Pontypool Changes Everything, this is more psychological thriller than classic genre flick. Burgess also wrote the screenplay, and has discussed plans for a Pontypool trilogy, with the second instalment depicting the events outside the radio station, simultaneous to the action taking place in this film. His script is a potent mix of horror and social commentary, underlined throughout by a sharp sense of humour. In McDonald’s hands, it is lifted beyond the confines of its single set, becoming a starkly original study of the power of language and alluding strongly to the imposing power of the media.

2009 Archive

Image from Pontypool

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Comments

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  • #1 Stuart Wood / Wednesday 24 June, 2009 / 17:12 GMT

    Great little spin on the zombie genre showing that going smaller is often a better approach than going "Michael Bay".

    Stay till after the end credits to be bewildered.
  • #2 Richard Brunton / Wednesday 24 June, 2009 / 21:48 GMT

    It was rather disappointing though when the reasoning behind everything came out, I suspect the book will be a lot better.

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