Synopsis: A horror thriller in which a deadly virus infects a small Canadian town.
Tagline: Shut up or die.
Release Date: March 6, 2009 | MPAA Rating: Unrated | Coolthulhus Earned: 5
Pontypool is a Canadian horror film starring Stephen McHattie (300, Watchmen), Lisa Houle, and Georgina Reilly. It’s based on the novel Pontypool Changes Everything by Tony Burgess, who also did the film adaptation. It’s produced by Bruce McDonald (The Tracey Fragments, Ray Bradbury Theatre), and done as a movie and a radio play.* [Note to self: Find and listen to this as a radio play.]
Pontypool has an absolutely ridiculous premise, in which a language gets infected by a virus. It’s so ridiculous, in fact, that this a movie that you sit down to watch just knowing that its going to be a ‘so bad it’s good’ at best. Except, it’s not ‘so bad it’s good’. It’s actually flat-out great. It makes you laugh, makes you think, and gives you just a dabble of blood and tension to keep you on your toes.
Infected language? It’s easy to understand that a computer’s language – it’s code – can become infected. But, the idea of a human language becoming infected? Preposterous! …Right? I mean, it’s one of those that you can’t possibly ever see happening. But, we’re bombarded with words, thoughts, and ideas. Especially with social media, opinions bump heads, ‘facts’ are often not facts at all, and shock value sells. Language is always evolving. No, on face value, Pontypool‘s premise doesn’t work at all, but when you think about the point it’s making…
Pontypool is produced on a very small set, with a handful of actors and the occasional appearance by a few extras. It shouldn’t work nearly as well as it did, but it was captivating. Stephen McHattie is undeniably charismatic as Grant Mazzy, and the acting from Lisa Houle and Georgina Reilly sells well, too. This was a low-budget film ($1,500,000.00) that is well-scripted, nicely directed, and finely acted. In short, it’s a shining example of how people should do a low-budget film.
I loved it. This is a movie where you embrace the cheese and enjoy the show. The small radio production set feels completely sealed off from the outside world. Its banter and irreverence, with McHattie’s character repeatedly being reigned in by Houle, in her role as his boss. When reports first start coming in that things are starting to go sideways, it’s easy to laugh it off. It soon becomes obvious though that there is something happening. Tension builds rapidly. In a movie that depends so much on voices, the actors do a great job of letting their tone of voice do as much of the acting as their faces and actions do. Everything pulls together well in Pontypool.
And that ending? Sheer perfection. That’s all I can say without spoiling it. Sheer perfection that is either enhanced or slightly ruined by the bit of odd fun during the credits.
My favorite line in the whole movie:
“Do we really want to provide a genocide with elevator music?” – Grant Mazzy