"When I had just finished my first book, The Hellmouths of Bewdley my publisher sent me out to get an author photo for the cover. My wife and I drove out to Bewldey thinking a picture of me standing on a dock on Rice Lake would be perfect...turned out the sun went down and we ended up pulling over to the side of the road and taking a pic in some town along the way. That was Pontypool. I had some pressure on me at the time to write a second book so I said, "I owe Pontypool a book." --Tony Burgess (It didn't hurt that the word "typo" is within the name, either.) See more »
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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"Pontypool" is a refreshing change of pace among the plethora of zombie / outbreak films out there. Not in a long time has a horror movie fired this viewers' imagination this much, and therein lies the appeal: it really does work like a radio show, where the listener creates the visuals for themselves and the performers have to really sell the material. Tony Burgess' script is intelligent and interesting, offering a different take on just how people can get infected and become violent. It ultimately loses a little of its effectiveness in its third act, when it starts being more conventional. Use of gore is discreet, and the atmosphere is undeniable. With the number of main players in the story kept to a bare minimum, a high degree of intimacy is achieved.
The under-rated veteran character actor Stephen McHattie gets a chance to sink his teeth into a rare, meaty lead role as Grant Mazzy, a sardonic shock jock now working as a morning radio man in the small Ontario town of Pontypool. Together with his fellow employees Sydney (Lisa Houle, who in real life is Mrs. McHattie) and Laurel-Ann (Georgina Reilly), he discovers that things outside are going from bad to worse. People are becoming sick and attacking others, and nobody knows why. Eventually, with the help of a doctor (Hrant Alianak) who provides plenty of exposition, they get to the bottom of things, but it remains to be seen if their newfound knowledge can aid in the restoring of order.
Mostly played straight but not without a sense of humour, this is one of those individualistic little gems that jaded horror fans would do well to check out. It creates some genuine tension, and doesn't treat it as a given that all will end well. The actors work very well together, especially McHattie and Houle, who get a great many scenes with each other towards the end of the film. Slick widescreen photography is an asset, as well as McDonald's no-nonsense direction.
It just goes to show that good ideas and simple, no frills filmmaking can make for good entertainment, and that sometimes less is indeed more.
Eight out of 10.
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