Saturday, August 13, 2011

Movie Review: Pontypool (2009)

I've been dying to watch Pontypool since it came out in 2009 and won some horror awards , but it was never released on Netflix. The film is set entirelly at a radio station in Pontypool, Canada. The protagonist, Grant Mazzy, is a DJ who dislikes living in such a small, dull town. Based on the evidence in the film, he was fired from his previous job and feels extreme distaste at moving down the ladder. While driving to work in the early morning, a strange woman bangs on his window and murmurs indecipherable words before fading into the darkness and the falling snow...

As the film progresses, breaking news from the police and eyewitnesses are relayed to Mazzy, and a picture begins to form. The town of Pontypool is under attack by strange mobs of people whose true purpose is veiled in misinformation. Since the three main characters are effectively stuck in the station during a snow storm, they try to glean the truth of the matter from call-ins, police radio bands, and reports from their weatherman. Eventually, Mazzy discovers that something horrible is happening to the citizens of Pontypool, and even the army is involved.

Stephen McHattie excels at his role. He has done narration for movies and tv shows in the past, and you can hear why. His voice is smooth and deep, rich and alluring. They could not have picked a better-sounding person to play a DJ. On the other hand, his acting never seems to match up with the scope of the terror he and his friends are facing. He remains calm at times when the normal response would be to panic, not out of stone cold courage but more likely out of disbelief and confusion.

The film was made on a shoe-string budget (shoe-string for a major motion picture, that is). An estimated $1,500,000 was spent on this film, which explains why the director only used one locale to shoot everything. The characters never leave the station, and the only scene outside is a short one at the beginning when Mazzy is driving to work.

Pontypool uses some unique conventions in its execution of a classic horror genre, the zombie movie. Other movies have gone this route. I think specifically of 28 Days Later and The Crazies (though a remake), movies which subverted the expectations of zombie fans by choosing to go down a path somewhat more believable than "reanimation of dead flesh." In a film where your cast and locations are limited, good acting and set utilization are key. While I wouldn't nominate any of them for academy awards, each actor manages to play his/her role competently.

If you're looking for a zombie movie without all the blood and a unique twist, check this film out.

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