Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Pontypool (2008)

Apparently the director of this film insists this is not a zombie movie, but if it walks like the undead and bites like the undead, well ...

Grant Mazzy is a former radio shock jock whose career has sunk to the point that he's stuck in a tiny radio station in rural Ontario.  Driving to work in a snow storm, he encounters a woman who acts oddly, repeating his words, and then disappears into the blizzard.  Mazzy is a little unnerved, but shakes it off to the point where he uses the incident as inspiration for his show.

Shortly thereafter, however, the station's "helicopter" reporter Ken (who is actually just sitting on a hill and using sound effects for the chopper) calls in some strange goings on at the clinic of a local doctor.  Hundreds of people have gathered and, after chanting strangely, begin to trash the place in an orgy of violence.

As eye-witnesses call in and are mysteriously cut off before they can be put through to him, and the intermittent calls from Ken become stranger and stranger, Mazzy begins to suspect that he is the victim of some kind of bizarre prank by his co-workers.  He insists on going outside to see for himself.  The stampede of frenzied totally-not-zombies-honest that greets him puts paid to any idea of a hoax.

The reason the seriously-man-they're-totally-zombies are at the station is that they're following the doctor whose clinic was destroyed.  He has apparently worked out a lot of the story behind the strange behaviour and aggressiveness of those infected, as well as how the disease spreads.  I'll give the film points for having an unusual vector of contagion, and while it is wildly implausible, it's no worse than the usual explanations for the walking dead.

There are some good performances here, and quite a lot is achieved with a very restricted cast and sets.  For much of its run Pontypool is quite effective at building tension; especially once the doctor arrives at the station.  In the last ten to fifteen minutes however, I felt it foundered quite badly, and delivered an unsatisfactory conclusion, which is why I'm not giving it a recommendation.  It's really only - despite the director's protests - for zombie aficionados.

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