So I love how I am able to help my friends out when it comes to my movie watching. Take today’s movie for instance. Today’s movie, Pontypool, is part of a set of movies that my friend Mark gave me a while back and I told him I would let him borrow the set when I got done with today’s movie (because it was the last one in the set for me to review) because he wanted to watch I Sell The Dead, based on my review of it. Mark told me that, because he is not the type of person to rewatch a lot of movies, he would probably buy me movies that he thinks I would like that he is interested in seeing, then just borrow them from me. Honestly, I see this as a win/win, don’t you? So let me get on with today’s review of Pontypool.
The plot: In the small town of Pontypool, Ontario, former shock-jock turned radio announcer Grant Mazzy is arguing with his agent as he drives through the snow towards the radio station. After angrily firing his agent and throwing the phone down, it starts ringing and Grant pulls over so he can pick it up off the floor. Suddenly, a strange woman puts her hand on the glass and starts mumbling the word blood over and over again before disappearing into the night. When Grant arrives at the station, he says hello to his technical assistant Laurel-Ann Drummond and after going over the day’s schedule, Grant asks her to check on any 911 calls in the past 24 hours. After adding some alcohol to his coffee, Grant begins his morning show, welcoming the station manager Sydney Briar to the program as he starts speaking on air. After talking with traffic reporter Ken Loney, who is flying in the storm in the news helicopter, Grant continues with his show, adding some of his shock jock persona to his rant and ends up annoying Sydney, who cuts off his mike. As the two start to argue, Sydney tells him that it is a small town and people just want the basic news, sports, weather, and community events and Grant apologizes and says he will tone it down. As the show continues, Sydney starts to wonder where some of the other employees are as Laurel-Ann gets word of a hostage situation occurring. Sydney doesn’t want to go on air with it until they have confirmation but Laurel-Ann already sends it in to Grant, who goes on air with the story, saying it is probably some drunk ice fishermen. After Grant goes to Ken and a commercial break, Sydeny speaks to him about some of the people he was joking about being drunk, as well as Ken not really being in a helicopter but on a hill in his Dodge Dart and using sound effects to make it seem like he is in a helicopter. Later, Sydney is telling Laurel-Ann that whatever happened regarding the hostage situation freaked out the police so bad that they want them to kill the story. Just then, Ken calls Sydney to alert her to a mob of people outside the office of Dr. John Mendez and Sydney has Laurel-Ann rush the news to Grant. Grant goes on air about the incident before turning it over to Ken. Ken reports that the walls of the office have exploded with people pouring out and people are getting trampled. As Grant starts asking if the police are trying to restore order, Ken says some military trucks and helicopters have appeared and he is trying to get out of there but gets cut off. After going to commercial, Grant leaves the booth to try and get some more information from Sydney and Laurel-Ann and they tell him they don’t have anything yet but he should just continue with his job and as soon as they have something, they will let him know. Grant doesn’t like it but he continues with the day’s program, having a musical guest perform live on the air. After the performance, as Grant is wrapping things up, one of the girls starts acting strange but they rest of the group quickly quiet her and leave the studio. Sydney and Laurel-Ann still can’t get a hold of Ken or an official statement but say they have some eye witnesses on the phone but when Grant tries to talk to them, all they hear is babbling. Sydney thinks that this might be some sort of hoax but when they get a police constable on the phone, he admits that a mob attacked a woman’s house and she was killed. When an affiliate station of BBC1 calls in to speak with Grant about what is going on, Grant admits that they honestly don’t know as there has been no official word but he does not believe it is a terrorist attack. Ken manages to call in and says he is hiding in a grain silo and witnesses the mob pulling two people out of a van and biting them. When a kid from the mob hears Ken and tries to attack him, the boy is injured and whispering something and Ken wants to get closer to hear what they are saying but Grant warns him not to. Suddenly, a message comes blaring through the speakers in French and when Laurel-Ann translates it, she sends it in to Grant. Grant tells the listeners to stay indoors, avoid using terms of endearment, baby talk, rhetorical discourse, or the English language altogether. Sydney receives a call and tells Grant that the entire city of Pontypool is under quarantine. Ken calls back and plays the recording of what the boy is saying and Grant starts to get freaked out. Sydney goes in to check on him and Grant lashes out at how unbelievable this all sounds but apologizes to her and tells her that he has to get outside. As Laurel-Ann plays some pre-recorded bits, Grant heads outside, despite Sydney and Laurel-Ann’s efforts to stop him but as he stands outside looking out, Laurel-Ann sees something and quickly drags him back inside. After she locks the door, the see people swarming the outside, repeating back some of the words that they had just spoken. Trying to figure out what is going on, Grant starts reading out obituaries on the air while Laurel-Ann tends to a cut on Sydney’s hand. As they are talking, Laurel-Ann suddenly starts acting weird, repeating the word missing, and then wanders over to a corner. Sydney is concerned about her friend when suddenly, she notices someone crawling in through a window. The person identifies himself as Dr. Mendez and when he sees Laurel-Ann, he tells Sydney to be quiet and takes her into the soundproof booth with Grant. As they start to talk, they see Laurel-Ann trying to smash her way into the booth for a while before she seems to lose interest and walk away. Mendez says that she is doing this because she hasn’t found a victim yet but if she can’t hear them then she will lose them. When they get Ken back on the phone, he says the boy has died and suddenly starts repeating simple over and over. Mendez explains that he is gone and they notice Laurel-Ann staring at them through the glass, her lower lip bleeding from where she has chewed it up and apparently mimicking their words. Mendez asks if she can hear them and Grant tells him no, then suggest that she might be able to read lips. Mendez says that is some sort of virus that is transmitted through the English language somehow. As the infected people outside start to break in, Laurel-Ann suddenly starts to vomit blood onto the window before she collapses dead. Mendez theorizes that this is what happens when they don’t find a victim, just as they see more people start to enter the room. Quickly turning off the lights, the three hide underneath the window as more people start to bang on the glass. Writing messages to each other on note pads, they come up with the idea to use the infected people to broadcast a message out to the world, and lure them away from the building. Grant turns on the microphone and starts saying “Sydney Briar is alive”, then Sydney loops it as it plays on the loudspeaker outside, drawing the infected crowd outside. When Mendez starts showing signs of being infected, he suddenly switches to speaking in Armenian, while Grant and Sydney begin speaking in French. They leave Mendez in the booth and try to escape but the kid from earlier is in the lobby and attacks Sydney when she tries to warn Grant. The two are forced to kill the kid and make their way to the kitchen to plan their next move when the power goes out briefly, killing the loudspeaker. The two are forced to hide in a storage closet and Mendez joins them but quickly climbs out the window and sacrifices himself to lure the infected away. As they start to figure out their next move, Sydney starts to repeat the word kill. Grant trying to make sense of what all has happened and decides to confuse the word and repeatedly tells Sydney that kill means kiss. The two kiss and it seems to work as Sydney appears to be back to normal. Realizing that he might have found a cure, Grant wants to go on the air and try and do the same thing to everyone in Pontypool with a broadcast. Sydney reluctantly agrees and helps him start broadcasting but as they are on the air, they hear explosions and gunfire outside and a voice over a loudspeaker asking Sydney to stop listening to Grant as he appears infected. As the voice begins counting down from 10, Sydney heads into the booth and kisses Grant as the count reaches 1. As the credit’s roll, audio broadcasts indicate that the quarantine failed and more cities become infected. Grant and Sydney are shown to have survived the incident at Pontypool and as they make plans to get out of there, they decide to change their names to Johnny Dead-Eyes and Lisa the Killer.
Pontypool was well received by the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of 83% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Witty and restrained but still taut and funny, this Pontypool is a different breed of low-budget zombie film.” Writer Tony Burgess, who wrote the original novel “Pontypool Changes Everything” and adapted it for the screen himself, said that Orson Welles radio broadcast of War Of The Worlds served as an inspiration for his story. The movie only received a limited release in theaters, where it only earned $32,118.
This whole set of movies have been pretty good and this movie definitely goes along with that trend. The acting was pretty good, with Stephen McHattie (Grant) and Lisa Houle (Syndey), who are married in real life, do a good job in their roles. The story was pretty interesting, with the idea of an audio virus infecting people and making them go crazy being a unique twist to the typical zombie movies. There wasn’t a whole lot of special effects, mainly the few scenes with Laurel-Ann attacking the booth and vomiting blood. The fact that you never really see what is going on in town, only what is described by Ken and the others, is actually pretty effective because the audience is left to imagine for themselves as to what is happening and how it would look. A great movie to watch and definitely something to watch on a stormy night.
Rating: 4 out of 5