Trapped in an isolated gas station by a voracious Splinter parasite that transforms its still living victims into deadly hosts, a young couple and an escaped convict must find a way to work together to survive this primal terror.
Bruno wakes up in bed next to Caroline, his long time crush. But tomorrow she's off for school in France, and maybe she only granted this miracle as a parting gift for her long time friend.... See full summary »
Mrs. French's cat is missing. The signs are posted all over town. "Have you seen Honey?" We've all seen the posters, but nobody has seen Honey the cat. Nobody. Until last Thursday morning, when Miss Colette Piscine swerved her car to miss Honey the cat as she drove across a bridge. Well this bridge, now slightly damaged, is a bit of a local treasure and even has its own fancy name; Pont de Flaque. Now Collette, that sounds like Culotte. That's Panty in French. And Piscine means ...
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Gruesome, chillingly memorable and darkly funny semiotic zombie film
As with many film genres, the psychological horror film becomes increasingly in danger of being driven into the proverbial ground under a staggering mountain of cliché and repetition, with frustratingly few alternatives to the same old spin on the same old story. However, with Pontypool, Canadian independent director Bruce McDonald manages to not only breathe fresh life into an increasingly withering genre, but concoct a sliver of something altogether unexpected and new in the process. Adapted from screenwriter Tony Burgess' own novel about a small Ontario town overrun by zombies infected by a virus spread through the English language, McDonald's impressively lo-fi sheen proves the perfect fit for a zombie horror film brave enough to engage in notions of semiotics (dismantling the English language and forms of verbal communication) and philosophical reflections on interpersonal communication and survival situation ethics, while somehow managing to remain darkly comedic in the process. Yet, inherent complexities and offbeat humour aside, Pontypool remains a gruesomely effective and taut piece of psychological horror, beautifully paced and peppered with chillingly detached bursts of visceral violence and gore, making it almost essential viewing for any horror film fans.
Taking notes from abiding genre classics such as Alien, McDonald keeps the viewer daringly in the dark throughout the film, offering only tantalizing snippets of information from outside news broadcasts to contextualize the viral outbreak and horror unfolding outside the secluded setting. This focalization alongside the protagonists serves not only to draw the viewer in further in terms of alignment with the characters, but perpetuates a noxious, continual sense of claustrophobia, amplifying the creeping terror to almost unbearable levels. Far from balking at the challenge of keeping a single enclosed setting interesting, McDonald practically drinks in every last inch, managing to make the radio studio appear alternatingly oppressively tight and eerily vast - a masterful exploration of subjective relations to space. Similarly, Claude Foisy's eerie dirge of a spectral musical score perfectly compliments the film's crushingly atmospheric veneer.
And yet McDonald refuses to let genre conventions stifle an impish sense of fun, as the film's grisly realism is counterbalanced by unexpected moments of irrelevant silliness (a man dressed up as Osama Bin Laden appears on Mazzy's radio show with no explanation given), tastefully melding the zombie horror and black comedy genres to create a remarkably unprecedented result. And while the film may not be a flawless entry into the genre (Burgess's script offers the occasionally wooden patches of dialogue, and the daringly ambiguous ending may not be for all tastes), such a unique spin on age old narrative tropes deserves recognition and plaudits from all capable of stomach the material, both in terms of jarring violence and troublesomely complex thematic and philosophical overtones.
Being such a human drama centered piece, without the right cast, the low budget and static location of McDonald's film may have started to fragment, but thankfully the collection of primarily new actors prove more than up for the job. Perpetually underrated character actor Stephen McHattie shines in a rare lead role, giving a remarkably balanced performance as sardonic radio broadcaster Grant Mazzy. Showcasing both a deliciously dry comedic deadpan and potential for raw, dramatic charisma, McHattie deftly carries both the light and dark aspects of the film with ease. Lisa Houle gives an impressively measured performance as Mazzy's harried co-worker, managing to defy 'damsel in distress' stereotypes by being a fully capable and independent individual, yet with an appealing vulnerability equally driving home the credibility of her character. Georgina Reilly is a powerfully commanding presence in a far too brief role, similarly essaying a fully convincing human being forced to succumb to petrifying circumstances. And Hrant Alianak is a delightfully bizarre presence as a quirky doctor who may or may not possess crucial information regarding the viral outbreak.
Easily worth seeing for its unconventional blending of the intellectually complex, chillingly horrifying and bleakly humorous, Pontypool achieves a cinematic gut punch, delivering a reaction unlike most contemporaries and certainly proving far more memorable. While certainly not an appropriate initiation for those unfamiliar with zombie horror, the film's unique hybridity and visceral emotional effect is sure to both sate and fascinate fans of the genre, making Pontypool near indispensable viewing.
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