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.


  1. I tend to agree with you. This is a zombie film that isn't for everyone. It brings a unique, and needed, concept to the horror genre, but doesn't bring the expected carnage. But I think that's ok. I like it when a horror movie comes along that feels real with characters that have depth. I've had enough of early 80's stereotypical characters in grind-house horror flicks.
    I also got the chance to review this film on my new blog. I'm just getting started and would love some feedback from a critic. Check it out if you can.

  2. I'll definitely check out your blog! This was definitely a nice change of pace. I too am getting a little sick of seeing the same crap get touted as the next big thing. Sometimes, what you don't see is far scary than whatever fake blood you see on the screen.