Pontypool

"Excellent"

Pontypool Review


Producers of low budget thrillers usually take one of two approaches to keep the bottom line slim: 1) Spend the money on cheap, gory scares; or 2) Establish a gimmick that keeps the story and action small. Pontypool takes the latter route, impressively adding one ingredient: intelligence.

This frightening little Canadian chiller takes place in roughly one location, a makeshift radio studio set in the basement of an old church, where the Grant Mazzy morning show broadcasts to the people of Pontypool, Ontario. This particular morning, something seems to have Pontypudlians in its grasp -- and in true, low-budget form, we don't really get to see it. But through effective filmmaking, we do imagine it.

Director Bruce McDonald (The Tracey Fragments) successfully relies on dramatic basics to set our minds ill-at-ease: competent acting, a comprehensive story, and a dedication to dialogue. In fact, the script, adapated by first-timer Tony Burgess from his novel, is so focused on speech that language ends up playing a huge role as Pontypool develops. Getting into more detail would be spoiling too much.

Although Pontypool spends most of its time underground, the film begins on the dark, open, freezing-cold road of mid-February Ontario. That's where we first meet Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie, A History of Violence) a grizzled, rebellious radio host who's busy firing his agent while driving to work. Before he can get to his destination, he comes across a woman standing in the snow, peering blankly into his car window and mumbling. Creepy.

And easy to forget -- as McDonald spends the next 20 minutes detailing the intricacies of the radio show, with the interplay between Mazzy and his two female producers, the firm-handed Sydney (Lisa Houle, McHattie's real-life spouse) and young war veteran Laurel Ann (Georgina Reilly). With a smart variety of camera angles and moves, McDonald handily establishes character development and tension, not unlike Oliver Stone's handling of Talk Radio. A tweak of music here, a taste of a disagreement there, and we almost forget we're expecting a horror movie of some sort.

Until word of strange happenings come into the station, of course. A mob scene outside a doctor's office, hordes of people sitting on a car. Chanting? Killing? There's no substantiation on any news wire, so no one at the station is sure what to believe. With a nice morsel of paranoia from McHattie, Grant begins to think the whole evolving story could be a giant B.S. scenario to make him look dumb.

But McDonald slowly layers on more trouble, and the playful power of Pontypool comes when we can't determine whether the characters' isolation makes them snug as a bug or sitting ducks. After a local doctor conveniently enters the fray, the origin of the "disease" becomes apparent and the focus, oddly enough for a horror film, is about the impact of words, even specific language. Now that's unconventional.

Aside from a slippery resolution -- one that may fall too far off the corny meter for some -- Pontypool elicits scares, discomfort and the occasional raised hairs. You know, all those feelings that tell you a smart, exciting movie is unspooling, that have you hanging on as you head for the final frames.

How about a ponty ride?



Pontypool

Facts and Figures

Run time: 93 mins

In Theaters: Friday 18th September 2009

Distributed by: IFC Entertainment

Production compaines: Ponty Up Pictures, Shadow Shows

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
Fresh: 65 Rotten: 14

IMDB: 6.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: Jeffrey Coghlan, Ambrose Roche

Starring: as Grant Mazzy, Lisa Houle as Sydney Briar, as Laurel-Ann Drummond, Hrant Alianak as Dr. Mendez, Rick Roberts as Ken Loney

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

The latest adaptation of Agatha Christie's 83-year-old classic whodunit, this lavish, star-studded film is old-style...

Paddington 2 Movie Review

Paddington 2 Movie Review

The first Paddington movie in 2014 is already such a beloved classic that it's hard...

A Bad Moms Christmas Movie Review

A Bad Moms Christmas Movie Review

Everyone's back from last year's undemanding adult comedy, plus some starry new cast members, for...

Brawl in Cell Block 99 Movie Review

Brawl in Cell Block 99 Movie Review

Filmmaker S. Craig Zahler brought a blast of offbeat creativity to the Western genre two...

The Death of Stalin Movie Review

The Death of Stalin Movie Review

Fans of the film In the Loop and the TV series Veep will definitely not...

Call Me By Your Name Movie Review

Call Me By Your Name Movie Review

Set in northern Italy in the summer of 1983, this internationally flavoured drama is a...

Thor: Ragnarok Movie Review

Thor: Ragnarok Movie Review

The most riotously enjoyable Marvel movie yet, this action epic benefits hugely from the decision...

Advertisement
Breathe Movie Review

Breathe Movie Review

While this biopic has the standard sumptuous production values of a British period drama, it's...

The Snowman Movie Review

The Snowman Movie Review

With a cast and crew packed with A-list talent, this film seems like it should...

The Party Movie Review

The Party Movie Review

Comedies don't get much darker than this pitch-black British movie, written and directed by Sally...

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) is on his way to becoming the new Woody Allen, which...

6 Below Movie Review

6 Below Movie Review

Based on an astonishing true survival story, this film is subtitled "Miracle on the Mountain",...

Mother Movie Review

Mother Movie Review

Darren Aronofsky doesn't make fluffy movies, and has only had one genuine misfire (2014's Noah)....

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

It's been 35 years since Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic, which was set in 2019....

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.