Monday, December 5, 2011

Pontypool: Challenging Your Expectations

In the middle to late 90's, if you told me that we'd have a massive cultural zombie renaissance and accompanying weary-some glut, I'd have told you to fuck off and to go hide in the basement with the mouthy white guy, his abused wife and their soon to be reanimated, garden tool loving daughter. Nevertheless here we are and you've never had more choice chomps for your undead delights. Unfortunately for every new, interesting take on rotters, there's a dozen others that are just looking to cash in on the craze. Hopefully you didn't skip Pontypool.

The title, perhaps it's weakest point, is the reason that I almost passed it over. It's entirely unassuming, just like the film, and so it makes sense in the rear view but does a disservice as an initial hook. The title of the film comes from the name of the Canadian town in which it takes place. It's a small community afflicted by the bitter Ontario winters. We're following recent fired radio shock jock Grant Mazzie, who's on his way to the only gig he could get- morning news man on small town Pontypool's only station. Mazzie is brilliantly played by Stephen McHattie, whom I absolutely loved as Hollis Mason in Watchmen; especially in his last stand scene in the Extended version (arguably on of the best moments of the whole film). Grant is smooth and charismatic, which is absolutely essential in a character driven film with a single set.

That's right, outside of the opening sequence the entire film takes place in the radio studio populated by only three characters- Grant, his producer Sydney and Laural-Ann the tech. Because they are the main source of news for a small town and because they're precisely positioned to intersect the incoming information, we're introduced to the madness of an outbreak in such a unique way: without eyes or even first hand account.  It's tension times ten as all accounts of the hysteria are unconfirmable, with discomfort building on top of itself as call ins end in grotesque screams and with confusing mental hooks. The source of the outbreak might be the most unique ever attempted...but I'll stop right there.

I can't delve further into why Pontypool is such a unique entry into my favorite genre without completely spoiling what makes it so effective for you. This is a flick which zombie fans absolutely cannot afford to pass up, even if you've grown fatigued of the en vogue sugenre. It's so refreshing that it might even wipe some of that fatigue away. The atmosphere sucks you in and the story hooks dig themselves in deeper than an Alabama tick. I'd be fascinated to hear what other zombie fans think of this work. Drop me a line after you see it. It's currently available on Netflix Instant watch.

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