18 April 2010

Ally's Review: Pontypool

One of the glaring weak spots from our list of films currently reviewed is the lack of zombie movies. This isn’t because of an aversion to them (far from it, Fin is a connoisseur of the zombie subgenre), it’s just the way it has worked out so far. Hopefully, as we embark on our third season, that will change. I personally plan to throw a few zombie films into the mixer this year. One of the very few zombie films we have watched at Horror Club is Pontypool, which we watched in the middle of the 2009/10 season.

I’d never heard of Pontypool before Fin brought it to the table, but it sounded interesting. The film starts in a small snowy town in Ontario, in the middle of the night. We meet a grizzled DJ coming on to do his graveyard-shift slot. Immediately, I began to warm to the film. The style seemed slick and polished, and the actor playing the DJ (Stephen McHattie) is absolutely spot on. He plays a once renowned shock jock who has clearly made some bad choices, and he’s wound up on a small time radio station as little more than an announcer. He’s actually one of the strongest characters from any recent horror movie I’ve seen: you get the feeling that the back story is all there in his face and voice. As he settles down for the shift, news of strange events happening around their little town begin to trickle through. At first it doesn’t appear serious, but soon more events unfold that begin to reveal just how dire the situation outside really is…

By the end of the first hour, a full-on zombie outbreak is on the cards and the radio station soon becomes populated with those potentially spreading the virus. But how is it spreading? It’s at this point that Pontypool can’t quite deliver on its potential. On paper they have an excellent - and novel - take on the zombie outbreak tale: the virus is spread through peoples voices. At first I thought this was a piece of genius, a fresh new approach to the genre. But unfortunately the film quickly becomes as nonsensical as those infected with the virus. Twists fall flat and it actually becomes a very dull film towards the end. We were all laughing at the absurdity of the final quarter of the film, which was a shame. Once the outbreak was fully-fledged I became completely disengaged from events. The film is in no way frightening, a few of the jumps are more for comedy-value than to actually scare the audience. Any tension and suspense is tempered by the drop-off in quality as the story evolves.

Like a lot of horror films, it failed to build upon an intriguing idea. The necessary execution to produce something worthy of its original promise was severely lacking. It was a disappointment because the first quarter of the film showed real originality and style, plus the character of Grant Mazzy deserved a better platform (although I wonder if part of the problem with the film is that his unique character doesn’t quite work as the ‘hero’ during the second half).

Pontypool wasn’t known before it was brought to Horror Club, and it was quickly forgotten after being watched. I’m surprised that it has actually been reasonably well-received by a lot of critics, it just doesn’t work in my opinion. If you want to watch a zombie film then you are best to stick to the classics. This one is only for those who have seen virtually all zombie movies and are searching for anything with a scrap of originality. But for everyone else, there are plenty of more interesting and well-crafted zombie movies out there. Best avoided.


  1. There is one genuinely creepy / scary moment with the child sitting in the office chair. Other than that I have to agree with you. It's a film that for a long time punches above its station, is innovative and at times very interesting. Unfortunately, it becomes a little too convoluted and falls short at the final hurdle.

    It also contains one of the most ridiculous/non-sensical/weird post credit sequences I have ever seen. No need.

  2. I actually think this film had a lot of interesting ideas just didn't follow through on them and ended up being pretty ridiculous.


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