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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pontyline

Does that "joke title" even make sense? It's supposed to be like "panty line," so I took the pool out of Pontypool and changed it to line. HAHAHAHAHA. Pontypool is a Canadian horror film directed by Bruce McDonald and based off the novel, "Pontypool Changes Everything" written by Tony Burgess. While the director himself does not considered Pontypool to be "zombie" film, it is an infection film, which puts it firmly hand in hand with the zombie genre.

Either way, Pontypool is a fresh take on infection/zombie movies and while you may know a little about what drives these zombies from other sources, I will only lightly touch on the details of the actual infection itself...an infection that is somehow caused through language. This is what makes this movie so completely fascinating is the idea of using language to cause and/or spread this infection as opposed to conventional means. To create the idea of "killer language" and then set the film in a radio station where talking is the part of the job is a brilliant idea and one that also makes for a more traditional influence...seclusion. We'll get back to that later...

There are three main characters in Pontypool - Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie) is a sort of shock-jock radio personality, who after being fired from his last job, ends up working this shitty small town gig in Pontypool, where instead of pushing peoples' buttons, he is reporting about missing cats and the weather. Sydney Briar (Lisa Houle) is the radio show's producer and she is joined by Laurel Ann (Georgina Reilly), who is a sort of tech girl for the station. As the morning show is trucking along, they begin to receive news reports of strange events that are happening in the small town, and over time these events escalate and get weirder and weirder, to the point that it is clear that something bad is happening. They are a morning radio show, so of course they report this news as it comes in, whether they have official word from the news wire or not.

This is one of the many things that works so well in Pontypool - the fact that, as a viewer, you only know as much as the these three characters know. Nothing more. They aren't sure what to make of these events as they are unfolding because the details are scarce and that provides a lot of slow burn tension. There are large portions of this movie, where mixed in with brilliant editing, things are so tense and completely captivating. As I was watching Pontypool, I found myself engulfed in the story, because I too wanted to know what the hell was going on outside of the secluded radio station.

Secluded radio station...always a recipe for success, when done correctly. Not once are you away from the characters in this film. Not even for a second. Only time spent outside of the radio station is time spent with Mazzy as he is heading to the station for his work day, that is all. You have no clue what the town looks like and that is a great way to let your imagination run wild as you can only guess as to what the area looks like outside of it being described as small. Only thing you know about the world outside of the station is the fact that it is very cold and just as snowy. Total seclusion. You are given free reign to come up with a million and one images as to what is happening outside - in a location that your imagination creates.

Pontypool's driving force is it's characters, as you essentially have only three characters to follow in the film (outside of a few people who pop in here and there), so strong performances are of the utmost importance here. All three actors turn in phenomenal portrayals in Pontypool with Stephen McHattie as Grant Mazzy really shining bright as the bitter radio jock. He acts as the film's narrator and while he is guiding the audience of Pontypool the town, he is also guiding the viewer of Pontypool the film, all with a voice that is tailor made for radio listening ears. Georgina Reilly as Laurel Ann also puts in a solid performance and delivers one scene soo well that it is clear she was perfect for this role. Unfortunately, details of that scene are spoilerlicious, so I will not say any more about the subject.

This is a "zombie" movie, but don't go into Pontypool and expect to see any zombie/infected action like you would with many films of this variety. There is little to no actual interaction with the antagonists in the movie. The only interaction you really have is the fear that they are able to put into the unknowing inhabitants of the radio station. Mental interaction, if you will.

I found Pontypool to be flat out fantastic and a movie that doesn't force everything that is happening down your throat. You are left to come to your own conclusions all the way and until the very end and it is a completely engaging experience throughout. Pontypool's writer, Tony Burgess also scripted the film along with director Bruce McDonald. Both were heavily inspired by Orsen Wells' classic radio broadcast of War of the Worlds and that is essentially what the film is like, a radio play. Incidentally, Pontypool was simultaneously produced as both a theatrical film and as a radio play, using the radio broadcast from the film itself. Something that I hope will be on the DVD when it comes out next January.

Don't be a fool, watch Pontypool!

14 comments:

  1. how how i love Pontypool. I was lucky enough to catch it at TIFF last year. since ten i've been trying to get more folks to see it. Matt, I'm so so glad you liked this.I love the word play mixed in with the blood letting.

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  2. Great review, my friend...now If I could only get my mitts on this one. It's not playing in my neck of the woods, not on first run, and Netflix still does not have it. Oh woe is me.

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  3. Muy excelente review! Wish this was showing in Dallas.

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  4. For those of you trying to track this down, Blockbuster carries it - I rented it from there about a month ago.

    Anyway, I loved this movie too - great review, and I agree about the actors - especially the producer lady. She was amazing. The only thing I didn't like was the ending - it kinda fell apart. Still, admirable work from all involved.

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  5. In terms of the name- and I don't know why its used but pontypool is a village in wales. Pont is welsh for bridge and the Y is the welsh word for the.

    from wikipedia-

    "the highway leading from the church of Trevethin towards the bridge called Pont poell." It would seem therefore that the town gains its name from the bridge placed near the swampy pool which almost certainly would be greater than the forge pond that exists today.

    Ponypool is not very far from here, there isn't much there to see.

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  6. Great review and I feverishly mirror your feelings.
    As you may know, Matt, I recently read the book. It made me love the film even more. Why you ask? Because the book HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE FILM. Nothing... at all. "Grant Mazzy" is in the book. For like, 2 chapters. And he isn't the same character. At all. He may or may not be gay... whatev.
    What I'm getting at here is, the filmmakers & screenwriters etc etc should be congratulated for essentially turning a vague idea into a wonderful, fully fleshed out film.
    Ugh, so good.

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  7. Yeah totally agree Matt. PontyPool is a mesmerizing flick and that an infection tint with it. (I liked it and I was lucky enough to talk to the director about the flick after the screening.

    The best part of this Q and A afterwards was:

    Even McDonald quipped during the Q&A that Pontypool was picked up to be distributed in South Korea with the tagline "Fear English!".

    Too funny.

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  8. Vish: It is definitely one of the top five or ten films of the year for me and I hope it does well when it shows up on DVD in the states. So jealous that you got to see it on the big screen...I need to find some way to make it up to TIFF next year! Thanks for stopping by.

    Pax: Thanks, Pax! I looked it up and it is not available on Netflix or to purchase until late January, but as Gore Gore-Girl stated, you can pick it up at Blockbuster as they have an exclusive release of the film.

    I also did see that you can rent it through their online on demand thingy too. Pontypool did originally appear on IFC on demand if I remember correctly, so there could be a chance that it's on there still. Hope you can track it down...so worth it!

    POT: That comment above works for you too...go and see if Blockbuster has it. Otherwise you will have to wait two months to see this thing. Thanks for the compliment and I am so sorry for not providing you with the freshest beats in all da city streets!

    Gore-Gore Girl: I agree, the ending doesn't hold up as well as the rest of the film, but it isn't bad at all either. And I didn't really mention Lisa Houle's performance, but thought she was incredible in the film as well as the other two main actors. She had a great emotional draw about her. Thanks for the comments and the Blockbuster info!

    Nigel: You sir are a (ponty)pool of knowledge! I would have guessed that Pontypool would not have much to see, but that is interesting that there is one in Wales.

    I did a little more research after reading your comment and found that the Pontypool in Ontario was named Pontypool because the settlers were from Pontypool Wales. Thanks for dropping that knowledge on me, kind sir!

    Christine: Thanks Christine! I am fascinated about the book ten fold after reading your comment. I remember you reading the book and after seeing the movie, I was very curious as to what you thought of it. I really want to know what else the book gets into and I need to get it NOW!!

    Jaded: Why does that not surprise me that the South Korean title is Fear English! Fucked up, but definitely funny. That is way cool that you got to speak with the director after seeing it...I would love to hear more about the process of turning the story into the film with the help of the book's writer. Thanks for the link to your review too...I'm off to read that shit now!

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  9. Ive been looking forward to this one for quite some time, glad to hear another positive review and I will be sure to check it out soon!

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  10. You definitely should Carl...I obviously loved it and can only highly recommend it to anyone that enjoys a smart horror film with a great idea and a low-budget.

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  11. Thanks for reviewing this one Matt - I can't wait to see it. The idea of language as a catalyst for the 'zombie' infection is an intriguing one. And I like the idea that the writters were inspired by Welles's War of the Worlds radio play. Before reading your review I assumed this was a British film - well, a Welsh film - as there is a small town in Wales called Pontypool. Had no idea there was also a small town in Canada called Pontypool. So, thanks to your review, I've learned something new today. Huzzah!

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  12. I bring you knowledge AND filth!

    I am a huge fan of Orsen Wells' War of the Worlds in all of its incarnations, so that is very appealing to me too. I would love to hear the audio version of Pontpool, which is all just the audio from the radio broadcast...very cool.

    Hope you get to check this one out soon, James - I loved it and I would love for as many people as possible to see this film. Thanks for the comment and kind words!

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  13. Thats too funny that James hit on the same Wellesian representation I found as well, Matt you hit all of the same points of interest I found in the film. Loved McHattie, he drew me in instantly but everyone really did put in a phenomenal job here. Who would ever have expected to enjoy a zombie flick without any gore?? High five on the recommendation man, a very good call here. Thanks for the link back too so my lazy ass didnt have to go fishing around ;)

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  14. No problem...I figured you might find the review interesting enough. I really loved the film and I am so happy that it is getting the reception it has. Pontypool is what horror is all about.

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