Film Review: Pontypool

13 Oct

Pontypool

*****

As Halloween approaches it’s once more time for the film studios to roll out their Horror offerings, blood, gore and ludicrous goings on in the spirit world par for the course.

Thankfully this year sees a new contender on the block in the shape of Pontypool, a small Canadian film in which Zombies may be central to the plot but which opts for simple visuals and the power of the spoken word to convey its own unique brand of terror.

Opening on Valentine’s Day in the small town of Pontypool, Ontario, shock jock radio DJ Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie) is driving to work at the small radio station when he sees a strange figure on the road.

As the snow impairs his visibility and he speeds on into the night, Mazzy heads for the warmth and safety of his station where his producer Sydney Briar (Lisa Houle) and technician Laurel Ann (Georgina Reilly) are waiting.

Soon after the phone-in begins, complete with links to the station’s Eye in the Sky and local callers, messages start to filter through that something is very wrong in the town, crowds of people wreaking havoc on nearby buildings.

Mazzy and his colleagues are soon at the centre of something far bigger than they can imagine and it’s up to them to discover a solution before they become the next victims of the gathering hordes outside.

Pontypool’s script, adapted by Tony Burgess from his own novel, is a masterclass in how to use a meagre budget, and a strong cast, effectively.

Placing McHattie at the centre of proceedings as the annoying-yet-ingenious Mazzy is undoubtedly what holds the piece together, his hypnotic voice resonating around the cinema and drawing attention away from the fact we rarely see outside the same four walls.

Director Bruce McDonald has a dream location in the shape of the radio station, lingering close-ups on his lead and the decision to be sparing with his camera angles for the majority of the picture meaning that when things do spiral out of control it’s all the more exhilarating.

You may have noticed that I’ve neglected to discuss much about the actual cause of the terror, but to say too much would be to spoil things. It’s worth stating that this is no teen-friendly gorefest and that anyone expecting the next 28 Days Later could be disappointed.

Instead it’s language that becomes the focal point of the story, a fresh take on the type of virus plotline which has been seen too many times. Admittedly the explanation for the virus which causes the Zombies may not make much sense at the time, but it all happens so fast you barely notice it.

Pontypool is something of a “grower”, an always entertaining little film which stays in the memory long after you’ve seen it and improves with age, which is more than can be said for some of its flashier counterparts.

Pontypool opens around the UK on Friday 16 October

Watch the Pontypool trailer:

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