Horror review: Pontypool



Toronto director Bruce McDonald (Hard Core Logo, Highway 61) makes his first foray into horror with an adaptation of Tony Burgess’s 1998 novel Pontypool Changes Everything.

George Romero won’t be looking over his shoulder.

The movie starts out well enough, as fallen radio personality Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie, Canada’s craggy-faced answer to Lance Henriksen) drives a snowy highway to his predawn job in the small town of Pontypool, Ontario. When he pulls over at one point, a woman steps out of nowhere and startles him with a knock on the window. She mumbles something incoherent then vanishes into the dark, with Mazzy left haunted all day long by the strange incident.

When he arrives at the station, the controversial shock jock hooks up with his feisty producer and youthful engineer and starts relaying the news of the day in his typically sarcastic manner. But then the morning show’s traffic reporter calls in a live observation of a violent mob causing havoc at a nearby medical clinic. People are being trampled to death but nobody knows why.

Cue the first of many heavy-handed close-ups of McHattie’s bewildered, leathery visage.

Before long the station becomes the target of zombielike intruders, and the crew barricades itself in the sound booth along with a psychiatrist who theorizes that the escalating violence is the result of a brain infection that’s being passed through certain spoken words. At this point the audience is either won over by the thought of language itself being a virus or alienated by the absurdity of the idea.

Pontypool deserves some credit, I suppose, for bringing braininess to the zombie genre—as opposed to just brain-eating—but as a horror fan, this high-minded Talk Radio of the Living Dead left me as cold as a Pontypool winter.

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