George Andrew Romero can't make a zombie film as good as Pontypool anymore. It's true. Watch his last three attempts and you will become a believer. It's unfortunate that I have to include a Romero bashing with every talk of a new zombie film these days. His Day of the Dead goes down as one of my favorite horror movies of all time. That said...he sucks now.
Great fuckin' movie! It's a film that anchors your suspense solely on the performances that the actors bring into the film.
Stephen McHattie is that guy you've seen in that movie before. His performance here demands your attention with every spoken word. He's got one of those voices that will snap your neck if you're not careful. If I were casting a western zombie apocalypse film and needed someone to play the sheriff hellbent on fuckin' up some zombies...my shortlist would only include Mr. McHattie's name. He's so good in this film and I sincerely hope he does more work in the genre soon. Personally, I'd like to see a buddy film with Lance Henrickson and Stephen McHattie...that would be solid gold!
The film begins in a small town in Canada called Pontypool where after gettin' the boot from a big city radio market, a "shock-jock" named Grant Mazzy (McHattie) is on his way to his first day at a gig working a local station's morning shift during a snowy Valentine's Day morning. From the moment he sits down to begin his broadcast we get the idea that Mazzy is way too big for this little radio station being broadcast from the basement of an old church. The station is run by Sydney Briar played by Lisa Houle (McHattie's real-life wife) and Laurel-Anne Drummond played by Georgina Reilly, who kinda has a little Anna Farris thing going.
It's not too long before we get reports of normal townsfolk losin' their shit and killing/eating/zombieing other people. Now...before I continue, it is important to note that the entire film takes place inside the radio station basement of the old church. This is important because I haven't watched a film in a long time that takes you to many levels of tension and suspense while staying in the claustrophobic confines of a small location. Soon, the chaos manifesting outside bleeds into the radio station and we are thrown into the terror that is unfolding. It's like we're trapped there in the basement with them with nothing to do other than to report what's going on outside through the airwaves.
Pontypool basically has like four consistent actors, not counting the many voice actors and unimportant bit roles. It hardly has any real gore save a scene involving projectile blood and oral electrocution. It does not have any cheap "jump-scare" scenes in it. And it does not employ the use of elaborate CGI within the film. What Pontypool does have is a brilliant execution of story-telling and a taut sense of timing and atmosphere that is incorporated by the expert performances of the actors anchored by Mr. McHattie. It is an original take on a tired horror genre, which may get slight unnecessary comparisons to 2007's The Signal, that takes the concept of the zombie and fuses it with the notion of infecting the host by way of the English language. Kooky...ain't it? But..it's a good kinda kooky. It's adapted from the book of the same name and I recommend you check it out. I would also recommend that George Andrew Romero check it out. Muthafucka might get some ideas of making a halfway decent zombie flick again.
Pontypool gets an 8 out of 10.
Thanks for reading,