Pontypool: A review


Ahhhh, Pontypool.

There are some brilliant choices and touches of flair in this unique take on a time-warn genre. However, those brilliant choices and touches, for me, sadly, didn’t live up to the idea of what I thought this film would deliver, especially given it’s high festival marks.


First, I will say that, as independent films go, this is a crackerjack of conceit and execution. Confine your characters to one place, put them in a tense situation, heighten the tension and suspense by never showing the horrors we keep hearing (save for one really well done scene) and let us watch a great actor at work and we’ll be riveted for the time it takes to finish the story.

Bravo to the filmmakers and writer for showing us just enough of these characters to make them believable and to make us care and then good job to the director for stepping back and simply letting the camera wash over the made-for-film face of the lead actor, Stephen McHattie. Why hadn’t I known about this Canadian actor sooner? My loss, because he is simply amazing.

I don’t like to give away any of the story in my reviews. Suffice to say, it takes one simple click and not much typing to figure out what you need to know and I, for one, love to go into a movie I know nothing about knowing nothing.

That said, something has inflicted the people of Pontypool with a deadly virus that turns them into the type of Zombie you’ve never witnessed before. The conceit is handled brilliantly and it’s a shame the filmmakers didn’t have more money to explore the idea a bit further than they did.

A few things I didnt understand:

1. The characters’ complete inability to simply not speak. Why not just write things down? (They eventually do, but, come on. You see the horror first-hand. SHUT UP!)

2. The way characters simply appear, sometimes nearly out-of-nowhere.

3. Please, please, please do a remake and show more of what happens in the run-up to the virus destroying its host. This is something we’ve never seen before and it’s really a great idea. Make the doctor(who was a great character) more of the movie so we can see more of what’s happening.

Things I LOVED:

1. The lead actor and his character. Eric Bogosian and Talk Radio pale in the light of this genius.

2. The young woman and her turn. She was great, had a good backstory and then…she loses it. Sad and scary and tense and very-well-handled. (If slightly not handled fully enough).

3. The humor and the pathos mixed together. This guy is sad and finished with life. But they still laugh, they still cry and he still thumbs his nose at the man. Brilliant.

4. The entire last third. The movie goes from tense to awesome to funny to crackerjack zombie flick. Thank you.

If it seems I liked this movie more than I let on, I did. I’m just not sure where to put the ending and what the writer was trying to say. I felt it took something away from the horror of it and made it…dare I say…political. Confused me somewhat and would have liked a different reason for what ultimately happened.

Definitely worth a watch!



8 responses »

  1. Brian, I saw your post in the random thread and I completely forgot to tell you I’d seen this and really enjoyed it. It certainly doesn’t like up to its potential (the general concept of the English language being a virus is insane and wonderful) but it’s a damn impressive mood piece that makes the best of a limited budget.

    Actually got the original novel for Christmas. Looking forward to it as I understand it tells a completely different tale.

  2. I had the pleasure of finding this little gem on Netflix and filed it under the “reasons why I still have Netflix” finds. There are so many BAD horror movies to watch it always tickles me pink (& gets me thinking) when I find a movie like this. Honestly, I think a remake showing more would ruin it, and that’s not to say I thought the movie was perfect as is. Not fully knowing is part of its brilliance, who can negate that truly creepy feeling as the play by plays come rolling into the station bewildering our main actors who can’t do anything but continue to roll with it. I think most critics contention with the movie was the implausibility of the virus itself – and not really grasping how or what it is. (Why U-Boats, for example? Where does that come in?) Perhaps this is a good analogy of the state of any virus – when they hit we are always at a loss until science finally has the time to rip it apart and explain away its magic. I imagine the beginning stages of any lethal virus may be just as confusing and scary. I, for one, can’t wait to read the book the movie is based on. Perhaps it answers some of our questions.

  3. In a very pleasant surprise: Bruce McDonald is doing another Pontypool! No word on whether it’s an original tale or if will adapt another segment of the novel. The teaser poster is here. Can’t wait.


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