Thursday, January 31, 2013

Movie Review: “Mothman”

Runtime: 91 minutes
Rating: TV-14
Release Date: October 25, 2011
Director: Sheldon Wilson

Seven friends harbor a dark secret: while in high school, they pulled a prank on a mutual friend that ended in his death. Katharine (Jewel Straite, “Firefly”) is a reporter from Washington who managed to put that night behind her. Katharine and her friends conveniently lived in the town of Point Pleasant where the Mothman once struck.

Her editor decides to do a major story on the annual Mothman festival, and since Katharine knows the area, her editor sends her to do the job. After meeting up with her old friends, the Mothman decides to come back for them. Though Katharine was the only one who left Point Pleasant, she is the only one who starts having visions of what the Mothman does. She and her old boyfriend have to team up with Frank Waverly, a blind man who wants to trick the Mothman into showing himself.

Oh. My. God. How the hell did I ever manage to sit through this one? Halfway through watching it, I suddenly realized that I saw this movie before, and I believe that I actually saw it when it originally aired on Syfy. Even then, I thought it was a steaming pile of crap. My father actually grew up not far from where the bridge collapsed so I grew up hearing the stories of the Mothman, and this movie definitely doesn't do it justice.

Then again, “The Mothman Prophecies” was also a horrid movie, so maybe the real Mothman has no interest in having his life story told. A friend, who has a crush on Straite, actually fell asleep halfway through the movie despite mentioning several times how “hot” she was, so I have to say that this really doesn't have anything going for it.

"30 Nights of Paranormal Activity with the Devil Inside the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"

Runtime: Unknown
Release Date: January 15, 2013
Rating: R
Director: Craig Moss

Poor, poor Dana. Her father went absolutely batshit crazy when possessed by a demon. When priests arrived to do an exorcism, he killed the entire cast of the Oscar-winning film "The Artist," and poor Dana wound up in an asylum. Now that she's all better, she decides to move back into the house where it all happened with her own family, and the film turns into a parody of every major horror film in the last year or so.

There's her daughter, who looks like she's wearing a cheap costume of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," Abraham Lincoln, who lives next door and just so happens to fight vampires, the sexy vampires who show up in the middle of the night, the ghost, who likes to pleasure himself, watch porn, and smoke pot on camera, etc., etc., etc.

Have you ever watch a movie where you started laughing in the first few things and thought to yourself, damn, this is going to be a good film? Have you ever watched in horror as the laughs slowly disappeared? That's pretty much how I felt about this one.

I originally saw a trailer for the flick and thought it looked pretty funny. We rented it the night it came out, and sat down to watch it as a group. The first few scenes had some nice moments, but it was hit or miss for much of the rest of the film. The best scenes came early on, when in a parody of "Storage Wars," two women bought a storage locker with Adele living inside. As someone who watches that show and all of its spin-offs, those scenes were pretty darn funny.

The problem is that "30 Nights of Paranormal Activity with the Devil Inside the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" just goes downhill from there. It actually got to the point where I was wincing at some of the jokes, looked around and realized that everyone else was too. We actually made it to the end of the movie, but it wasn't nearly the laugh riot I hoped it might be.

Monday, January 28, 2013

“Madison County” Movie Review

Runtime: 81 minutes
Rating: R
Release Date: 2011
Director: Eric England

James, Will, Brooke, Jenna, and Kyle head out to the rural Madison County on a road trip. James started exchanging letters with a local man named David who wrote a book about a serial killer, Damien, who nearly ruined the community. After stopping for gas, they run into a truck driver who acts like the stereotypical redneck. After warning them not to go to Madison County, he gives them the name of a road as a short cut.

James decides to skip the short cut because he worries about what the man could really want, that or they watched “The Hills Have Eyes” before taking off. Their first stop is at the local diner run by Erma. Erma not only tells them that David doesn't exist, but she rolls her eyes at the Damien story. According to her and others in the community, the serial killer never existed. Someone just made up the story to get attention.

The group decides to split up with half investigating the community and half heading into the woods for a little fun. When a man comes out of the woods dressed in a pig mask, they realize that Erma was lying. Madison County really does have a serial killer, and that killer is coming after them.

“Madison County” is one of those films that I pass by all the time in the video rental store and always skip over. It's the same type of movie that I can't resist when I notice it on Netflix. If this is any indication of the type of director that Eric England is, I have to say that he has a fan in me. The movie far better than its current rating on IMDB, and I have to say that I was sad to see such poor reviews.

The film plays like a straight slasher film with a nod to the classic films of the 1980s. A group of college kids who should know better head to a place where no one wants them, and they decide to stick around and poke their noses in other people's business. The only downside is that the film doesn't have a lot of great death scenes, but you can use your imagination. It also has a, pardon the pun, killer ending that isn't necessarily a twist but still manages to wrap up the film.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

“The Reef” Movie Review

Runtime: 94 minutes
Rating: R
Release Date: July 19, 2011
Director: Andrew Traucki

Luke makes a living transporting boats around the world for its owners, and on his latest job, he decides to take his friends with him for a short trip. There's his best friend Matt, Matt's girlfriend Suzie, Matt's sister Kate who has an on again/off again relationship with Luke, and Warren, who is the only person who seems like he really knows what he's doing. After a day of partying, swimming, and drinking, they strike a coral reef and the boat starts going down.

Warren, who knows the waters and sailed them before, decides to stay with the boat. As he tells the others, he knows all about the creatures in the water, and he has no desire to jump into the ocean. Luke, Matt, and Suzie decide to make a swim for land, though Suzie makes it clear that she can't swim ten miles or more, which is what Luke estimates. Kate originally plans to stay with the ship, but she decides at the last minute to go with them.

The first few hours go okay for the group, until they find the headless body of a large sea turtle in the water. Then, Matt gets attacked by a shark in the water. Despite nearly losing her mind at losing her boyfriend, Suzie tries to keep going. As the surviving trio get closer to the land that they started swimming towards, they discover that the shark isn't ready to let them go.

“The Reef” is actually a strong creature-feature. Though it's slightly similar to “Open Water,” it comes across as a better flick. Suzie is easily the most annoying person in the film, but you can almost relate to her. All she wanted was to spend some time with her boyfriend and friends, and despite being a poor swimmer, she manages to stick with them when they go for help.

Luke is the character that you will hate. He clearly doesn't have the experience to lead anyone out onto the water, and I can't imagine why anyone would agree to go with him when he decides to swim for help. Trust me, I'm not a bad swimmer, but if I had to swim more than ten miles for help, I would probably just lay down and let the shark eat me.

It's also one of those movies where you might start wondering what you would do in the same situation. Would you stick with the boat and hope a plane might spot you in the water, or would you swim deeper into the water in the hopes of finding land somewhere? No matter which scenario you find more appealing, you will enjoy this flick.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Movie Review: “Ghosts of Mars”

Runtime: 98 minutes
Rating: R
Release Date: August 24, 2001
Director: John Carpenter

Melanie Ballard (Natasha Henstridge, “Species”) leads a group of soldiers to an outpost in the middle of nowhere to bring back a prison inmate. Among her group is the unusually quiet Bashira (Clea Duvall, “The Faculty”) and the sexy Jericho (Jason Statham). Unfortunately, they discover that everyone is missing. The few people they can find are the prisoner (Ice Cube) and his group of followers who hoped to help him escape.

It doesn't take long before they discover that those who were left when something happened killed themselves in gruesome ways. They find that the workers released a group of unhappy spirits who immediately possessed those around them. Every time they kill someone possessed, the ghosts just find another body, making escape and survival nearly impossible.

“Ghosts of Mars” is easily one of the worst films that Carpenter ever did. I bought this movie when it first came out, watched it once, and sold it a few days later. I never had any desire to see it again, but I stumbled on it when checking out Netflix one day and decided to give it another chance. I wish I had just kept going.

The only good thing about this movie is Jason Statham. This was still early in his career, but he still comes across as the perfect bad ass. No matter how much I might like him or the size of my crush, there are at least ten other movies from him that I would put in before sitting down to this one again.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

“V/H/S” Movie Review

Runtime: 116 minutes
Rating: R
Release Date:
Director: Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti Wet, Glen McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, Radio Silence

A bunch of loser guys like to film themselves running around town like crazy people and doing shit like ripping woman's shirts up on video. After selling some of their footage as porn, they learn that they can make even more money by breaking into a house and stealing a video from the owner. After gaining access to the home, they discover the dead body of an old man in front of a television. While going through the videos in his house, they start disappearing one by one.

“V/H/S” has a few different segments that are shown as the videos that the thieves watch. One involves three men who use a hidden camera to catch themselves having sex with women on film. They bring back two women to their hotel room, only to discover that she's a crazed psycho who may or may not be human. Second two revolves around a couple on their honeymoon. Weird things keep happening at every hotel they stay in, and someone finally takes their video camera to capture them as they sleep on their last night together.

Segment three follows a group of friends on a camping trip in the woods. One of the girls, Wendy, tells them that she was the survivor of a mass murder in the same woods. They don't believe her until the killer comes after them one by one. The fourth segment, and my favorite, focuses on a young couple talking over video chat because they are across the country from each other. Emily keeps experiencing weird things around her apartment and becomes convinced that it's haunted. While chatting with him, he sees a little child running through the apartment. The ending is a little twisted and completely unexpected.

The last segment is about four best friends who go to a Halloween party. When they don't find anyone else at the house, they decide that it must be a haunted house. They make their way through the house until they find a group of men screaming at a woman who is chained to the walls of the attic. After helping her escape, they discover that they should have left her hanging.

“V/H/S” is definitely an odd little film. Some of the segments are much stronger than others, but I get the feeling that everyone will like one more than the others. My favorite was segment four, if only for the job that I got when the little kid came out of nowhere. A friend was more of a fan of the last segment, which reminded him of the old Resurrection Mary legend.

The wraparound story wasn't as good as it could have been. There aren't many scares, and it seems to drag on a little too long. Jumping back to the story in between the other segments is sometimes confusing and often distracting. I think the directors could have cut a few of the wraparound segments to focus more on the individual segments/short films, which were far more entertaining.

It's been a few days since I watched it, and damn if that one story didn't stick with me! I found myself telling other friends about a girl getting a C-section done on her in the middle of her own living room and how another scene made me literally jump out of my seat. Even if I never watch the film again, I can't imagine myself forgetting about that one little segment.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Movie Review: “Reservoir Hill”

Rating: NR
Runtime: 65 minutes
Release Date: 2009
Director: Thomas Robins, David Stubbs

Beth (Beth Chote) moves to a new town called Reservoir Hill with her mother. Everyone in town stops and takes a second look when she passes by because she looks exactly like Tara, a young woman who vanished less than a year ago. She quickly notices a group of men in dark hoods staring at her wherever she goes, and people seem almost afraid of her.

She also becomes friends with some of Tara's old friends, including one girl who seems to be the only one in town who actually likes her. Another girl takes a photograph of her and passes it around to show people how much she looks like Tara. Beth keeps telling people that she isn't Tara, but she begins to wonder if they share a connection.

It doesn't help when she meets the family of the missing girl. Tara's sister has an emotional breakdown that lands her in the hospital, and she later refers to Beth by her sister's name. Tara's mother shouts at her and treats her like the devil, and the girl's brother is the only one who seems genuinely nice. She also manages to meet and start dating a guy, who was the last person seen with Tara before she went missing. All of this leads up to the “shocking” revelation at the end that explains what happened.

“Reservoir Hill” was one of those movies that left me going, what the fuck? Some reports claim that this was a failed pilot that a New Zealand network ran as a standalone movie, and apparently there was a second film made that follows the story from its ending. I really need to see that second film because I'm curious how they kept the story going.

I hate to spoil a movie for anyone, so if you don't want to know what happens, stop reading now.


It turns out that Beth is actually Tara. Tara was the most popular girl at school. Everyone feared her, but everyone wanted to be her best friend too. She ruled the school and treated everyone like crap, including her best friends. She and her sister had a fight, which led to her sister pushing her over a bridge. Her former friends lure her back to the bridge and reveal that they knew the truth all along.

They went down to the river, found her body, and drug her into an old building. They basically brainwash her into believing that she's actually Beth, and the woman she knew as her mother was in on it all along. The woman was a teacher who had her life ruined by Tara, so she was perfectly willing to go along with the whole scheme. I don't know about you, but if some chick ruined my life, the last thing I would want to do is be super close to her for six months.

That was just, I don't know, the last thing I expected. I'm not sure how a group of teenage girls could brainwash another girl into believing that she was a completely different person, especially given how strong they keep saying Tara was before. On top of that, how would a mother not realize the girl in front of her was her real daughter? Tara's sister notices it, but the mom just thinks the other girl is the devil. Of course, that doesn't stop her from totally accepting her at the end of the film.

*****END SPOILER*****

“Reservoir Hill” is currently available on Netflix to watch instantly, just in case you want to give it a shot.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Movie Review: “Hansel & Gretel”

Runtime: 90 minutes
Rating: NR
Release Date: January 8, 2013
Director: Anthony Ferrante

Gretel is a typical teenage girl, working in a bakery run by Lilith (Dee Wallace, “The Howling”). After meeting her brother, father, and his girlfriend for dinner, her father decides to tell the teens that they can no longer live with them. Once he and his girlfriend tie the knot, the two need to find new places to live. Though Gretel understands his position, Hansel immediately storms off in a fit of rage.

Gretel manages to chase her brother down in the middle of the woods, where their mother took them as kids. When Hansel trips over a tree root and sprains his ankle, she helps him through the woods, and they stumble across a small bungalow in the middle of nowhere. Luckily, the home is owned by Lilith, who inherited the house from her family. Lilith welcomes them into her home, fixes them a selection of dishes, and worries that Gretel won't get enough to eat.

Though Lilith seems nice enough, it's clear that she's harboring a dark secret. Once Gretel passes out after drinking a cup of tea, two sinister men step inside from the woods and drag Hansel into the basement. There, Hansel meets several people who were unlucky enough to run into Lilith. As they remain chained to the walls, they let him know that Lilith is a witch who eats people and that Gretel might just be the next person on her list.

With all of the hype surrounding the upcoming “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters,” it isn't surprising that The Asylum jumped on the bandwagon with a mockbuster film. What is surprising is that “Hansel & Gretel” actually comes across as a pretty entertaining film. The Asylum often cuts budgets and makes films on limited budgets, and even though this one only had a budget of around $150,000, that works as one of its advantages.

The screenplay takes the tale that we all know out of some unknown age and tosses it into the modern world. This Hansel and Gretel is a brother-sister team who know all about cell phones and the Internet, but it's believable that they would get lost in the woods without any modern conveniences. The film also does a good job of setting up the loving yet sometimes antagonistic relationship between the two, which plays like a real brother-sister relationship.

There are two big standouts in the film: Dee Wallace and Clark Perry. Dee Wallace can do a horror movie like no one else, and she seems perfectly cast as the witch. Wallace sometimes hams it up a little too much, like the scene where she chases after a man with a crazy look in her eyes that makes you sit back from the screen. She has some great moments onscreen, but when she goes a little crazy, you might find yourself wincing a little.

Perry takes on the role of Kevin, one of the unfortunate souls chained in Lilith's basement. He serves as the comedic relief in the film, and he has some great lines. When Hansel worries about his sister, he asks if she's a big girl because, “they like to eat the big girls first,” and when Hansel wonders why he keeps eating the donuts and sugary snacks they deliver, he lets him know that if he's going to die, he's going to go out on top. He's the type of guy who runs off, rather than go back to save his friend, making it clear that he might be the only smart person in the movie.

Some might say that “Hansel & Gretel” is just another cheap imposter film from The Asylum, but I found it to be one of the more entertaining films the company released over the last few years. It won't keep movie lovers from racing to the theaters for the big-budget version, but it might appeal to those who would rather wait for that one to land on DVD.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

“Mother's Day” Movie Review

Rating: R
Runtime: 112 minutes
Release Date: May 4, 2012
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman

“Mother's Day” starts off with a woman in a nurse's outfit sneaking into a hospital. After a security guard sees her leaving with a baby, he gives chase, only to wind up dead with a knife stuck in his chest.

The movie then jumps to the present day. Beth (Jaime King, “Silent Night”) is crying in the bathroom when her husband Daniel (Frank Grillo, “The Grey”) knocks on the door. The couple are in the midst of a birthday celebration attended by most of their friends. There's Annette (Briana Evigan, “Sorority Row”), the slightly slutty girl who does a provocative dance before laughing with her toupee-wearing boyfriend; George (Shawn Ashmore, “Frozen”), a doctor who is there with his girlfriend Melissa (Jessie Rusu, “Saw VI”); and Julie's best friend Gina (Kandyse McClure, “Children of the Corn”) who is there with her boyfriend Treshawn (Lyriq Bent, “Saw II”). Plus, one girl, Julie is there on her own.

While partying downstairs in the cellar and watching footage on television of a tornado on its way to their area, a group of bank robbers are on the run. Ike (Patrick John Flueger) bursts through the unlocked front door and dumps his little brother Johnny (Matt O'Leary) on the couch. After talking to his brother Addley (Warren Kole), he makes a phone call to his sister Lydia, letting her know that she and Mother need to get there. Mother (Rebecca De Mornay) arrives to help her sons clean up their mess.

It turns out that Mother and her children once lived in the house, but after failing to pay her mortgage, the bank took back the house. Beth, who works as a real estate agent, managed to buy the house with Daniel before it went to auction. Ike tells Mother that he frequently sent money home, but both deny that any money ever arrived. Mother naturally believes Beth, but thinks that Daniel is a liar-liar-pants-on-fire. She decides to treat the hostages in the house like she does her own a point.

I have never seen the original “Mother's Day,” but from what I've heard, this is a remake in name only. That doesn't really bother me, but what did bother me was the long runtime. At just under two hours, this is easily one of the longest horror movies I have seen recently. The first part of the film was interesting and the end was good, but the middle dragged so much that I found myself constantly checking the time remaining.

There were so many things in the middle of the film that didn't need showing. One of the friends winds up with a gunshot and the robbers leave her for dead, which leads to several scenes of her in the ambulance, arriving at the hospital, minor surgery, etc., before she finally warns them to send help to the house. The film also continually reminds us that there's a tornado coming without any payoff. Granted they use that to explain why police are on the street, but would it really be surprising to see one officer (specifically, ONE officer) driving around? Especially since they know the robbers are loose and once lived in the house?

But, let's skip over that and get to the good stuff. I know I haven't done the best deaths thing in awhile, which is sad given the name of this blog, so let's do it here. The best death comes when a man gets multiple nailgun shots to the head, his mouth filled with powder cleaner, and a television set dropped on his head. There are also a few surprising kills that pop up when someone gets loose with a gun.

I probably haven't mentioned it before, but I am not a fan of potential rape scenes, and those happen pretty often in this one. Mother decides to give one of the women to her dying son because he doesn't want to die a virgin, another son threatens to rape one girl while bending her over a pool table, etc. Those scenes almost made me want to throw something at the television.

Speaking of throwing things...I wanted to do that pretty often in “Mother's Day.” It was the type of film that had me literally yelling at the scream, especially towards the end. Let's just say that if someone kills the person that I love, I'm not going to act like the nice little girl and does whatever he says.

“Mother's Day” has some flaws (why do people keep casting King in horror films?), but it was still a solid little movie. De Mornay is the perfect mixture of terrorizing woman and innocent mother, and I can't believe I kept skipping over it in the rental store.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

“The Barrens” Movie Review

Runtime: 94 minutes
Rating: R
Release Date: October 9, 2012
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman

Shawn Ashmore (“Frozen”) goes walking through the woods with his girlfriend. After seeing a disemboweled animal in the woods, he urges her to run. When she runs directly into a tree, he rushes to help her and as something approaches them, the screen goes black.

The film then jumps to Richard (Stephen Moyer, “True Blood”) and his family. Richard looks forward to taking his family camping for the weekend and getting away, but they don't feel the same way. Sadie (Allie MacDonald, “House at the End of the Street”) hates her step-mother Katherine (Mia Kirshner) and would rather hang out with her friends, while her little brother is concerned that his dog went missing a few days ago.

Richard remembers camping in The Barrens with his own father, and he wants to scatter his dad's ashes, but things don't go the way he planned. They come across a dead deer in the middle of the street, there are other campers all over the park, and Sadie keeps wandering off to hang out with another teenager Ryan (Erik Knudsen, “Saw II”). It doesn't help when the teens start telling horror stories, including one about the local Jersey Devil, which makes his son cry and nearly wet his pants. Once Richard starts suffering flashbacks and becoming weaker as people disappear in the woods, it becomes clear that he might have a connection to the mysterious creature that might roam The Barrens.

First off, “The Barrens” really isn't as terrible as some reviews claim. The real problem is that it doesn't seem to know where it wants to go. When Richard finally admits to his wife that he killed his son's dog after it attacked him, she wonders if the dog was rabid. That would make sense and explain why Richard seems to lose his mind for no reason. Before you can digest that theory, the film offers another suggestion for his craziness and another before finally revealing that it's exactly what you thought, and that ending isn't nearly as entertaining as the one in your mind.

MacDonald does a good job playing the annoying teenage girl who you just want to smack. She meets Ryan and just a few minutes later, she's ready to wander out into the woods with him. Even as people start disappearing, she's still more willing to spend time with him than her own step-mother or father. “The Barrens” has quite a few moments where you might find yourself wanting to smack many of the characters, especially when they willingly decide to venture deeper into the woods, knowing that something is wrong with their leader (Richard).

The ending of “The Barrens” is fairly ridiculous, and it plays just like a film you might see on the SyFy Channel. Before it reaches that level though, it does have some bright moments.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Movie Review: “Fright Night”

Runtime: 106 minutes
Release Date: August 19, 2011
Director: Craig Gillespie
Rating: R

Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin, “Taken”) is a normal Las Vegas teen who has an interest in the paranormal. That becomes abundantly clear when a new guy moves into the suburb where he lives with his mom (Toni Collette, “The Sixth Sense”). The neighbor Jerry (Colin Farrell, “Total Recall”) is clearly a vampire, but since he doesn't really do anything for a good part of the film, no one really notices.

Once Charley decides that Jerry is a vampire, he tracks down Pete Vincent (David Tennant, “Dead Ringers”). Vincent is a magician working in Vegas who has an interest in vampires. When Jerry bites Charley's girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots, “28 Weeks Later”), all bets are off.

I have a confession to make: I am not a fan of the original “Fright Night.” Despite seeing way too many horror and horror/comedy films from the 1980s, I finally saw the original film a few years later. I thought it was a little boring and generally not for me. Nearly everyone I know flips out when I tell them that because they love the first one so much.

I didn't see the remake until it landed on DVD, and I didn't think it was really that bad. Farrell does a good job or portraying the not-so-classic vampire. The way he played with Charley was interesting to watch, and he had some nice chemistry with Collette, which added to the creepiness of his character. It was also nice seeing the little cameo from the original film too.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

“Jersey Shore Shark Attack” Movie Review

Runtime: 87 minutes
Rating: R
Release Date: 2012
Director: John Shepphird

A group of men drilling off the coast accidentally release a swarm of sharks, which naturally head to the Jersey Shore. A stereotypical group of people, who look like they just stepped off the background of the television show of the same name, must naturally band together to save the day. That might be a little difficult given that no one in the group really seems to like each other. There's the couple who recently broke up but might still harbor some feelings for each other, the drunk friend who wants nothing more than to have a few (or more drinks) and start dancing, and naturally, the guy who thinks that he's better than everyone else. As an added bonus, there is even a little cameo from former boy band member Joey Fatone.

Who wouldn't like to see a movie where the cast of “Jersey Shore” winds up eaten by sharks? Unfortunately, that's not what this film is about. “Jersey Shore Shark Attack” plays like a film created when someone decided to make use of the sets and extras left over when MTV decided to end the television show. Everything feels slightly familiar, even for those of us who never watched the show, but in a completely cheap and cheesy way.

The one big highlight in the film is that cameo from Fatone, but if you watched the trailer, you already saw this moment. Fatone shows up to lead a party on the beach, but seconds after he steps in front of the microphone, a giant shark leaps out of the water and proceeds to swallow him whole. Ah, if only Justin Timberlake would reach the point in his career where he did films like this! Take my advice, skip “Jersey Shore Shark Attack,” and stick with one of the far better recent shark films like “Bait” or “The Reef.”

Thursday, January 3, 2013

“Pontypool” Movie Review

Runtime: 95 minutes
Release Date: March 6, 2009
Rating: R
Director: Bruce McDonald

Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie, “The Tall Man”) is a radio DJ in the small town of Pontypool. While on his way to work, he sees a woman on the side of the road. She says a few cryptic words, and when he talks to her, she just keeps repeating what he said before stepping back into the snow. Mazzy finally reaches the small rural radio station where he works, briefly talking to his manager Sydney and technician Laurel Anne before climbing into the booth.

It quickly becomes clear that Sydney and Mazzy have an adversarial relationship. He was once fired for his on-air persona, and she continually reminds him that he is no longer in the big city. When their reporter Ken calls in with a report, Sydney wants to get more information, but Mazzy decides to broadcast the story live. He tells the listeners that there was a riot outside a doctor's office even though there is no proof of the story.

As the film continues, the crew quickly determines that there is a problem. The wire remains quiet, but the BBC gets through and broadcasts an interview with Mazzy live over the air. Ken keeps calling back, telling them about the people he keeps seeing wandering through town. They keep repeating words and phrases, act like a pact, and have no control. He also mentions seeing helicopters and military vehicles in town. When Laurel becomes infected and the doctor finds his way to the station, Sydney and Mazzy must work together to stop the spread of the disease.

I had no idea what to expect when watching “Pontypool.” A few different people recommended the film, but it sat in my Netflix queue for weeks. This is almost a zombie film without actually being a zombie movie. The infection doesn't spread through bites or contact but through a simple word, which acts as a virus. The main characters actually manage to find a cure, but the ending makes it clear that the government cares less about finding a cure and more about taking care of the problem.

There are a few scenes with actual zombies in the movie. The infected manage to get inside the station and throw themselves at the walls, but the characters actually figure out a way to make the zombies go back outside so they can seek shelter elsewhere.

“Pontypool” is also one of those rare horror films where the less you see, the better it is. For a good portion of the movie, we have no idea what the zombies look like. When Laurel Ann finally starts changing, it's actually fairly intense. Her skin doesn't turn green/black and she doesn't start ripping people's faces off, but her transition is a slow one that goes from repeating a few words to dripping blood down her face and banging her head against the wall.

The film really relies on the two main characters. Mazzy, Laurel, and Sydney carry the film. There's some chemistry between Mazzy and Sydney, which helps explain why he would care so much about curing her, and they keep the backstories to a minimum. We know that Sydney has kids spending the day with her ex, but it doesn't dwell too much on that. “Pontypool” is a strong little flick that primarily focuses on two people trapped inside a radio station as the world crumbles around them.