Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Not exactly a zombie film – it could more accurately be described as “zombie-ish” – Pontypool, a 2008 film directed by Bruce McDonald based on Tony Burgess’ novel Pontypool Changes Everything, is a good example how a good cast and script can overcome a low budget.
Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie) is a morning radio personality for a tiny radio station in the equally small town of Pontypool, Ontario (a real place, no doubt named after the Welsh town of the same name). It is at least implied that Mazzy is at the last stop on the downward slide of his career, drinking his way through announcements about lost cats and garage sales. He is assisted by his producer Sydney Briar (Lisa Houle) and assistant Laurel-Ann Drummond (Georgina Riley). Mazzy tries whatever he can to spice up the broadcast, while Briar tries to keep him on script, as it were.
A routine morning broadcast is disrupted by reports of violence and riots in the area. One by way, locals wig out and start attacking each other, mindlessly repeating random words. The radio station is soon under siege from the converted townsfolk. It turns out there is a virus that doesn’t transmit itself in the usual fashion, instead attaching to certain words. According to the director, Bruce McDonald, "There are three stages to this virus. The first stage is you might begin to repeat a word. Something gets stuck. And usually it's words that are terms of endearment, like sweetheart or honey. The second stage is your language becomes scrambled and you can't express yourself properly. The third stage is that you become so distraught at your condition that the only way out of the situation you feel, as an infected person, is to try and chew your way through the mouth of another person". The only way to avoid it is to stop hearing speech – an ironic task for people working in radio. Speaking a foreign language also seems effective, but it seems some Canadians aren’t as bilingual as you would think.
This is a very compact movie, with almost all of it taking place inside the radio station set. It is also dialogue driven, and thus rises or falls based on the cast. Fortunately for the film, Stephen McHattie, mostly seen as a character actor, does a superb job, and so does the rest of the small cast. The script is not only suspenseful but very witty in places, and I would recommend this movie. Be sure to wait through the credits for a final scene.
The writer and director have discussed plans for two sequels to the movie.