Sunday, March 28, 2010

Day One: Pontypool (2009)

And away we go!

First up this week is Canadian "zombie" film, Pontypool, directed by Bruce McDonald and scripted/adapted by Tony Burgess from his novel, Pontypool Changes Everything.

We weren't really sure what to expect, having only heard that the zombie plague in this film is spread via language. It's an interesting and original concept, but how would they be able to pull it off on-screen?


The film could, with some imaginative staging, be adapted to the stage. The cast is made up of only three main characters, with a fourth showing up later in the story. Of course, by that time we're sort of back down to three characters again.

I'm trying not to spoil anything, so I'll just leave it vague like that.

The story is set in a small radio station, headquartered in the basement of an old church in the small town of Pontypool, Ontario. Our main character, DJ Grant Mazzy, is a grizzled talk-radio host who has just fired his manager for getting him this nowhere job in this nowhere town. His producer, Sydney Briar, just wants him to do his job (school closing announcements, obits, weather, etc.) without too much drama. At least at this early stage in their employment relationship. Their assistant, handling the phones and feeding Mazzy info and news, is a hometown hero, Laurel-Ann Drummond, recently-returned from Afghanistan.

After a strange start to the day, on his way in to work, Mazzy sees a woman by the road muttering strange things and then disappearing into the darkness, we spend the rest of the film in the radio station as riots begin breaking out across town. And this is where the film really starts to shine.

Stephen McHattie, as Mazzy, does a great job as the crotchety and cantankerous DJ and it his and Lisa Houle's (Sydney Briar) chemistry that really make the film work. McDonald also sidesteps the budgetary demands of filming a widespread zombie outbreak by having callers describe what's happening rather than showing it.

I wasn't sure if this would really work, but it does. It works very well.

And when there is a chance for gore, the film doesn't disappoint there, either.

It was really the novelty of the way the infection is spread through language that really won me over, though. It seems that the English language has become infected. Not entirely, you see, but only certain words. Once you say or hear these words, they start to get a grip inside of you and take you over.

It's a very English Major kind of zombie film, which is why I suppose Dr. Girlfriend and I both enjoyed it so much.

This one is highly recommended!

My only concern is that the first film of the week was so good it may make the rest of the films pale in comparison. Hopefully not.

Next up: The first Greek zombie film! It's called To Kako! Or, in English, Evil!

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