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#43. Pontypool - Review

Pontypool 2008Pontypool is a surprisingly inspired take on a continually overused and typically uninspired horror subgenre- the zombie film. Stephen McHattie (Watchmen) plays shock-jock Grant Mazzy. Once a big time radio personality, it seems his sarcastic sense of humor along with his abrasive work attitude has finally caught up with him. Out of work and with little chance of mending his broken career, Mazzy reluctantly takes a morning show job at a small Canadian radio station in Pontypool. Aided by his engineer Laurel-Ann (Georgina Reilly) and by-the-book producer Sydney (Lisa Houle), the AM show is typical talk/music fare.

Propped up by a piping hot cup of coffee and whiskey, Mazzy has the attitude of a man under constant censorship. With Sydney listening to every word that comes out of his mouth, he begrudgingly does his best to try and keep himself in-line. Of course, every so often he finds an opening to let fly some of the caustic charm that most assuredly got him fired from his last job. Right around the time his whiskey and coffee pick me up kicks in Mazzy waits for the bright red “on-air” sign to come alive before he delivers –“Now, in our top story of today, a big, cold, dull, dark, white, empty, never-ending blow my brains out, seasonal affective disorder freaking kill me now weather-front, that’ll last all day, or maybe when the wind shifts later on, we’ll get a little greenhouse gas relief from the industrial south. Hail Mary, yea though I walk… we now go to Ken Loney in the Sunshine Chopper.” When you find out the station’s “Sunshine Chopper” is really just Ken Loney’s Dodge Dart or some such thing you really begin to sympathize for not just Mazzy, but the entire population of Pontypool, Canada.

When news comes over the police scanner that there has been a shootout between local police and a gang of ice fishermen, the trio do their best to figure out what sort of madness is occurring right outside their station walls. What starts out sounding like a prank phone call quickly escalates into a complete anarchic breakdown, with the citizens of Pontypool devolving into gibberish spewing undead.

Stephen McHattie in PontypoolWith a pacing and subtlety rarely seen in zombie or infected films, director Bruce McDonald expertly crafts a horror film that is equal parts Dawn of the Dead and Orson Welles’ infamous radio broadcast of War of the Worlds. With the majority of the film taking place inside the radio station, McDonald’s ability to ratchet up the suspense and paranoia without being dull was surprising, and proves how delicate he is with every scene and line of dial­­ogue. For all of his success it is McHattie who deserves most of the praise here, for this is his film and he owns every minute. Mazzy is layered, more developed than he perhaps needed to be, but McHattie delivers the DJ with such nuanced distinctiveness you cannot help but remain invested until the bitter end.

I love small indie horror fare, and Pontypool is an achievement. If you have seen Pontypool let me know what you thought of it in the comments section, and please, like always, let others know about Controller Unplugged by clicking the share” button below!

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Reader Comments (1)

This movie terrified me!

February 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterScraps

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