Interlude: Pontypool needs you!

19 Oct

Stephen McHattie

A worrying message was issued by Edinburgh’s Cameo cinema today via their Twitter feed, stating that: “It seems the poor reviews have killed Pontypool. A real shame as it’s one of the more original films out there. Creepy and humorous.”

A quick email to the cinema’s manager confirmed that audience numbers have been low in the only cinema in Edinburgh, and I believe the only one in Scotland, to be screening the film.

The reason I’d say this is worrying is that the Canadian thriller/horror, which tells of an attack on a small town by a horde of zombies, is one of the best I’ve seen this year, a film I recently gave four stars on this very blog, stating that it’s “something of a “grower”, an always entertaining little film which stays in the memory long after you’ve seen it and improves with age.”

In Friday’s Edinburgh Evening News I went on to say it’s “a claustrophobic film with an impressive central performance from McHattie…director Bruce McDonald wrings out just enough tension along with a few laughs to create a memorable horror gem.”

Following this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival I took part in a Pontypool audiocast for the Filmstalker website, where three of us gave the film a glowing review, while the site’s owner, Richard Brunton, reviewed Pontypool and said that “despite some issues it was intelligent, different, visually engaging and had some laughter in there too.”

Another Edinburgh critic, David Cairns, interviewed the film’s director Bruce MacDonald for The Auteurs website, and claimed Pontypool was “the most intelligent and ideas-based horror movie for some time.”

But don’t just take the word of a few Edinburgh fans.

Over on, a site which aggregates film reviews from around the globe, they give Pontypool an average score of 83%, which compares favourably to the 88% given to the new Zombieland movie and 22% given to Halloween II.

Kim Newman from Empire magazine said Pontypool was “Inventive and genuinely suspenseful, this is a welcome addition to the expanding zombie/virus canon”, while Wendy Ide in The Times said “It’s always an unexpected bonus in a zombie film to find the brains evident in the screenplay rather than splattered all over the scenery.”

In The Telegraph,Tim Robey reckoned Pontypool was “Tight as a drum and the most inventive spin on a zombie-plague premise in years”, Channel 4 Film’s Anton Bitel opined that “Pontypool is as astonishing as it is original, and amply repays multiple viewing”, while Total Film’s Matt Glasby stated it’s “Big on atmos, low on incident, this claustrophobic chiller captures the hysteria of a town flailing on the frontline of disaster.

Don’t believe the love-in from that lot? What about everyone’s favourite review site of choice, Twitter?

Well there’s not much negativity over there either, a quick search telling us that most people are in favour of the film.

So why are the audiences staying away from the film? Is it because of the fact that Zombieland and the new Terry Gilliam film The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus have opened recently, taking attention away from a smaller budget feature?

Or did Peter Bradshaw’s grim one-star review in Friday’s Guardian scupper Pontypool’s chances in the UK?

Quite what it is that can help get cash-strapped filmgoers into the cinema to see Pontypool is, as ever, a mystery.

For my part I’d urge you to head along to the Cameo between now and Thursday to catch one of the ultra-rare screenings of the film – it’s on at 21.15 on Tuesday night and 18.40 and 21.15 on Wednesday and Thursday…and then it’s gone.

While I can’t guarantee you’ll love it as much as many viewers have, I can promise a funny, smart, scary and original film which does great things with a tiny budget.

Edinburgh is already gaining a reputation as a favourite place for cult movie fans – this year’s Bruce Campbell appearance, the recent Troma event and the upcoming Dawn/Day of the Dead events prove that.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could ensure Pontypool does better in Scotland than the rest of the UK? If you can spare the time and the money to see the film, please do…

If you’re not in Edinburgh and want to see if the film is on near you then why not try

Here’s the trailer to give you even more incentive:


3 Responses to “Interlude: Pontypool needs you!”

  1. P 19 October, 2009 at 9:55 pm #

    Dawn/Day of the Dead is on at the Glasgow Film Theatre the day after Cameo with same guests…

  2. Jonathan Melville 19 October, 2009 at 10:02 pm #

    As well as Glasgow, the films are being screened in Dublin the day before Edinburgh’s sold out event.

  3. Richard Brunton (Filmstalker) 19 October, 2009 at 10:22 pm #

    Guardian one star? Come on, it’s much better than that.

    Ignore that review and look at the many others, particularly here and on Filmstalker, and go see it for yourselves.

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