Friday, February 10, 2017

Movie Review: Pontypool (2008)

Pontypool (2008) directed by Bruce McDonald

Grant Mazzy is a shock jock radio personality who has hit rock bottom. He's working for a small news radio station in the small town of Pontypool. On February 14, his drive into the station (in the basement of a church) is interrupted by a strange woman who bangs on his passenger window and seems to be mumbling strange words. Before he can get the window open, she vanishes into the show storm. At the station, it becomes clear he both doesn't like and doesn't understand the small town world he now inhabits. If that wasn't stressful enough, a report comes in of a mass gathering of people at a local doctor's office where they tear the place apart and weirdly chant semi-coherent words. His two female producers, Sydney and Laurel-Ann, try to verify the situation and keep Grant from going into shock jock mode. As reports come in from everywhere but official sources, the tension mounts--the mobs are described as tearing people apart and eating them. Is this really going on or is it some Orson Welles-style gag?

The movie stays in the radio station for the whole running time, giving it a claustrophobic feel and capitalizing on vagueness and uncertainty of the situation. The actors are believable and make the story compelling, helping to smooth over rough patches. As with many zombie movies, the technical explanation of how the zombies are created is very unconvincing. Unfortunately, that creation process is thematically central to the film so if viewers don't buy into it, the rest of the movie is hard to watch. I was willing to go along to see where it would end up but my immersion into the film dropped quite a bit. The zombies themselves do provide enough horror and tension to keep the story exciting. The ending relies a little too much on incoherence and confusion to be truly satisfying, though it certainly leaves a plenty of material for viewers to think about and discuss. This movie probably would reward multiple viewings and at ninety-three minutes is easy to rewatch. I will definitely give it another chance.

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