Pontypool(released March/09)stars Stephen McHattie as Grant Mazzy,Lisa Houle as Sydney Briar,Georgina Reilly as Laurel-Ann Drummond and others.This is a small cast and budgeted Canadian film that puts a very simple concept into action,which blossoms forth into a very scary and deep psychological horror/Sci-Fi film.In other words,it is making something big from something little.And the surprising thing of all is,that against all odds,it works.
The story finds a radio talk host,McHattie,in the rural town of Pontypool,Ontario(in the Kawartha's).He is a drinker and has been fired from his big city gig,and has been forced by circumstances to try his luck out in rural Ontario.His first morning there he spends trying to "get" his audience,and their attention("Take no prisoners"),while getting on the last nerve of his female producer.On his way into work that snowy and cold morning,he had a very brief encounter with a woman who came towards his stopped car,then mysteriously backed away.
The first glimmer of something really amiss comes when the stations "eyes in the sky" reporter witnesses the walls of a doctors office burst outward,with many people dying in the process.As they try and digest this their broadcast gets interrupted by a transmission in French,which we later learn is from the military.They ask people not to use any terms of endearment and not to speak English.Things start spiraling downward from here,even to getting a hook up with a BBC program who seem to think this incident and others they have heard about there,are related to separatist activities.The stations"eyes in the sky" reporter now becomes holed up on a farm and witnesses the crowds walking by and their strange behaviour and babblings.Eventually the reporter himself starts to talk in riddles and they must cut him off.
Time passes and the doctor,whose office walls were blown outward by a sea of people,arrives at the station.The talk host,the producer and doctor,hole themselves up in the sound booth.The station assistant starts to act erratically and she eventually kills herself outside the booth trying to get in.Then the station itself is under siege from the populace.Gun fire and explosions are heard on a more and more frequent basis as the military has moved in and are trying to control the situation,but speaking over loudspeakers,only French.The talk show host and his producer come to the conclusion,with the doctors help,that it is certain words and their understanding of them that have somehow infected the people.This then leads people into a stage of confusion,being unable to express themselves.They then,as it was described in the film,start chewing or biting at other people,usually their faces/mouths.Before they can get their message or "cure" out to the locals,the station is bombed.
Yes,words DO in fact kill in this film.It is a verbal virus that turns seems to short circuit peoples minds and turns them into dazed and confused individuals.Zombies,as in viral infected individuals,they are not.The actors here go through a broad range of emotion from the first frame to the last.McHattie turns in a boffo performance as the talk show host who not only has to deal with a career demotion,but his first day there feeling his way through,THEN to top it all off the circumstances that follow.His producer has the same kind of emotional charge as McHattie,yet from her producers perspective.As the tenseness of the action heats up so does the rising emotions of the actors to match it,level for level.It was a fine performance by all.
Technically speaking the film is in its w/s a/r of 2:35;1 and is clear and crisp.Extras include commentary and the radio adaption of the film.
All in all a fine Sci-Fi psychological film about a simple idea,that of words infecting peoples minds,that turns into a much more deep and complicated play than one could imagine.Not perfect but riveting,with good performances had by all.