Pontypool: a movie review

From indie director Bruce McDonald (The Tracey Fragments, Hard Core Logo) comes Pontypool, a deliciously taut, intelligently told thriller that breaks all the rules of zombie outbreak films, starting with the most important one: there are no zombies.

What do I mean? If a zombie film has no zombies, what the heck does the word even mean? Well, exactly.

Grizzled veteran actor Stephen McHattie exercises his gruff charm and silky-rough voice as washed-up radio host Grant Mazzy, who starts the morning with announcements of missing cats and snow day rosters, and ends it as the lone broadcaster detailing a mysterious outbreak of violence and illness. The tale is a masterpiece of mediated storytelling: Mazzy and his crew are glued to their helm in the radio station, receiving updates from reporters and civilians in the field, which means that the tension is built by voices and words, not gruesome action scenes.

And it works. Not only does it work; the tension becomes a self-feeding cycle as it gradually dawns on the radio troopers that their reports may be compounding the disaster. This is a lean, elegantly economical piece of storytelling that builds to a horrific crest by allowing us to invest in the players, to piece together their relationships and characters and to imagine for ourselves the horrors offstage… and then the action starts to spill over.

[This review is cross-posted to The VideoReport.]

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