Pontypool (2008) Review
Written by: BlackTequilaKiss
Cast your mind back. Remember those movies that barely used blood or gore, the movies that did not rely on special effects? Those can sometimes be the gems among the rough. Pontypool goes back to a time when all that was needed to create a good, fleshed out story was the cast and the plotline for the movie.
2008 was a mixed bag. There were some atrocious films that crossed into the mainstream and then there were others that truly proved horror still had its staying power. Pontypool adds to the charm that movies can still break ground and be original.
I never really had a major favourite of 2008 during the period but after this golden experience I think I have found the cinematic experience I've been long waiting for...
Pontypool Ontario, shock jock Grant Mazzy has been kicked off Big City airwaves and as taken a job, the only one available to him, at CLSY radio. He and two female staff broadcast in the basement of the small town's solitude church. The day begins dull with reports of school bus cancellations, in part to the massive snow storm taking force outside. However things quickly take a horrifying twist when reports of increasingly bizarre violence and strange speech patterns begin piling onto the airwaves. Grant and his small staff are now trapped inside the radio station with no real knowledge of what is happening outside, away from their sights. Faced with an impossible choice, do they stay live on air in the hopes of rescue or do they risk speaking and allow the virus to escape into the entire of the world?
I read reviews, I combed the web for information on what is admittedly a rather elusive movie and I thought I knew what to expect. Never has my perception been so far removed from how the movie actually rolls and boy I'm glad, this was an exercise in true horror without all the need for the gimmicks I have long been accustomed to.
The strength of the film:
Stephen McHattie as Grant Mazzy. Wow, just wow. He really was in his element for this movie and with a voice that is easily distinguishable it was easy to follow him throughout the movie. One thing I can say is that he is not afraid to be a bit on edge, a little sharper and pushing boundaries and he did all three without being over-the-top. I loved his refreshing honest and how his character was down to earth. From disgruntled to showing his softer side when things take a turn for the worst, he never lost compassion that I garnered for his character.
Lisa Houle as Sydney Briar, another great attribute to this movie. One of the things I loved about this movie was while the two female leads were evidently beautiful, they were not eye-candy, they brought something more meaningful to the movie itself and that always makes me a happy gal.
Houle as the character of Briar was no exception. Her role was laden in trepidation, from the start she really regards Mazzy as interference because he won't do things the traditional way and likes to scope his own way of presenting the news. She eventually warms to the character of Mazzy but takes a long road of trust to get there and that was why I loved her character. She did not try to conform to the easy stereotype and actually gave us time to become acquainted with her character.
Georgina Reilly as Laurel Ann. A sharp actress and honestly gorgeous to boot. Those eyes staring throughout the movie hold your gaze and her acting was just as nice to boot. Her transformation to what she eventually becomes was both shocking and done in great taste. No complaints here.
Special effects? Like I said these were sparse. There were some nods to it but this was no gore laden movie and when blood was used if at all, it was often implied as opposed to shown. Nevertheless when the very few bloody scenes were shown they were very artistically crafted together. The blood was made to look dark and pasty instead of brightly coloured which worked well to the effect of the movie.
I admired the score to Pontypool; it was luscious to the ears.
The tingle of the piano keys against the softened orchestra. Music was not as used in the softer moments, but in the more intense moments it really cranked a gear into almost unbearable heights. Live over the air when their reporter is speaking of the devastation unfolding, the music just works in time with the horror unfolding and it all works in a perfect motion.
Cinematography- this was actually harder to establish because of one key factor. Throughout the movie we, much like the three main characters, are confined to this one small area where they are forced to stay or else end up in dire straits. The colourless surroundings add a gratifying edge to the entire movie. Not much room is added for truly lucid light but kept bland and blank, it adds so much to the grain of the movie, truly nice for what it set to achieve.
This movie works because it comes down to two key things:
The small cast and the plotline. It is not an explanation I have heard before in a horror movie to explain away the cruel events taking place away from them, the cast work tightly again. Nothing about their interaction seemed forced or clichéd, it seemed as honest as a day's hard work.
Is it a zombie film? Yes and No, there are glimpses to suggest away a little of the zombie lore but also glimpses to say it's not that straightforward. Is it a claustrophobic watch? Yes, why it works is simply because we like the characters, know very little and only find out parts of what is happening but description and voice alone. Bruce McDonald used our imagination has the path to this movie and it is a compelling look into how a small band of people are forced to cope when they known very little themselves.
I loved this movie because it strayed from the usual. There is almost no gore and what they use is very little, there are no special effects; its simple environment and tightened story are the greatest aspects of Pontypool.
I heartedly recommend everyone checks out this movie, both for the acting; the storyline and the way it twists and turns. Not many movies exist that use very little and offer so much in terms of horror. This is a great film worthy of the respect it has been given.
Rent this, buy it, either way please watch this to remind yourself a big budget cannot always create what this movie does.
Refreshingly original and much better than I expected, this was a wonderful, new experience.
Bloody Love and Peace