This horror film directed by Bruce McDonald could easily find a place in my library of favorite zombie films…without actually being one. Its creative take on the genre is recognizably zombie, but is still original enough to be uniquely its own breed of monster film.
The story takes place in Pontypool, Ontario, and is based on Tony Burgess’ novel Pontypool Changes Everything. It primarily focuses on newly hired radio announcer Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie) and his station manager Sydney (Lisa Houle). McHattie and Houle were wonderful in this film. I loved their characters and how each of them developed throughout the story. I also enjoyed Georgina Reilly’s performance as their assistant Laurel-Ann.
This film has many of the classic elements of a zombie film: an infectious virus, hordes of infected individuals, a military force determined to quarantine that disease, and a few survivors trying to stay alive and healthy. What makes Pontypool different than most of those films though, is the infection itself.
The infection isn’t blood or saliva based. Bites and scratched will not infect you. The virus is instead transmitted through words. In fact, the zombies are not even referred to as such. They are identified as “conversationalists”. One of the characters (Hrant Alianak) suggests that that the virus has somehow found its way into the language, specifically the English language. I love this idea, because we rely on communication for many things, especially in times of great distress. It’s darn right devilish to think that the very thing that brings people together and educates them about the disease is what could cause them to be infected. Worst still, terms of endearment are reported to be potent transmitters. So our need to care for those we love would essentially endanger us the most.
My favorite “zombie” films have always been more about the survivors and less about the zombies themselves. Therefore, characters must be likable and memorable. I want to feel sad when one of them gets infected. And I want to cheer along with the survivors when they get away. Pontypool certainly gives me those moments, and I would recommend this film to anyone looking for something that isn’t your ordinary flesh-eater flick.
I rate this film a 3.4 out of 5.