Sunday, October 1, 2017

31 Days of Spooky Movies: Pontypool

Day# 28b


When a strange and deadly infection appears in a small town in rural Canada the crew at the local radio station becomes ground zero for coverage. However, unlike most epidemics, the pathogen here isn't a physical one, but one hidden within our very language.

Fright Factor:
2 / 5 Shock Jocks

Gore Factor:
3 / 5  Word Vomits

Should you watch it?

Sometimes I’m not entirely sure if a movie is definitively amazing or if it’s just flipping all my switches. Whatever the case may be, I love Pontypool! I mean it’s a linguistic zombie movie that cares more about creating a mood of terror than sights of gore! What’s not to love about that?

The idea of a virus that spreads through language is such a brilliant twist on a genre based in the physical. Zombies bite, zombies swarm, zombies eat, zombies rip, zombies tear, and so on. Zombie movies almost always involve the virus spreading through acts of aggression. And yet here it’s the opposite: the virus spreads through words. How do you work together to find a way out of a bad situation without language? (Not to mention the interesting modern parallels one could make between this pathogen and a computer virus).

Even if the linguistic angle isn’t your thing, this movie still has quit a lot to offer. The cast is small but it is stellar. The costars of Stephen McHattie and Lisa Houle just give it their all and knock their performances right out of the park.

And if all that wasn’t enough, the real coup de grace of the is just how it well it was made and how refreshingly unique its focus. So much of Horror filmmaking is about showing you scary things. “Here! Look at this thing...isn’t it SCARY!”

I think if you look for it you’ll notice that a lot of weak Horror movies fall flat because the filmmakers aren’t able to construct any actual fright and forced to deal solely in shock and eww. They simply show you something gory, or violent, or brutal, or whathaveyou, and call it a day. But a great Horror works through multiple channels to unsettle you. Showing things can be great, but there’s also so much wasted potential from not attempting to trigger the viewer’s other senses and using our own imaginations against us. Unless the filmmaker is exceptionally talented there is rarely anything they can show you that will be worse than what you can imagine.

And that’s a big part of what makes this movie so enjoyable to me. The virus is one transmitted through sound, the movie is set at a radio station; it’s sound (not sight) that provides the central focus of the movie. The action for most of the story is coming almost exclusively from the calls the station is receving. Those calls combined with the reactions from the crew at the station work together to build this delightful tension as you begin to sense control being lost and danger looming ever closer. The film just trusts the viewer to fill in the details in a way that I just love and so rarely see.

At the end of the day Pontypool is a movie that’s not for everyone. (As much as I hate to admit it). It’s just too different and takes too many departures from the mainstream to have true mass appeal. But for me? Well, that’s exactly what I love about it! It takes risks, it deviates from your usual expectations, and delivers something exciting, unique, and best of all: Spooky.

“Kill is Kiss.”

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