|'like all the best horror, Pontypool is a film with not only something happening, but also something to say'|
The idea that there's something happening just off-screen is something which films have played around with for decades. In 1953, The War Of The Worlds set the benchmark for the science fiction genre, whilst more recently, horror entries like The Blair Witch Project and action flicks like Cloverfield have used the 'found footage' motif to tweak the idea. It's inherently a simple and gratifying notion: play with the power of suggestion and your audience will be as invested (or as scared by) the situation as your lead characters.
Pontypool does a neat little trick on the off-screen idea, placing us in to the world of a small-town Canadian radio station, isolated in the basement of a church in the none-descript titular town. Over the course of the morning show, hosted by larger-than-life DJ Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie), it becomes clear that something is happening in the town outside. And that something, may be getting closer.
Inevitably, like most of the films that explore the idea before it, Pontypool eventually shows and explores just a little too much of its central idea, leaving an audience to scratch their collective heads at what is, admittedly, a very clever but very substantial conclusion to the reasons behind the madness. There's also a point at which a fourth character is added to our central trio (Lisa Houle and Georgina Reilly are McHattie's co-stars) who may as well be called Mr. Exposition and does a good job of acting like a barmy stereotype.
But before all of this and, to its credit, even during some of it, Pontypool is a really well-crafted, slow brooding thriller, anchored by a gigantic central performance from McHattie whose voice alone is enough to make one feel as though the impending apocalypse may just be around the corner. More than that though, Pontypool is, like all the best horror, a film with not only something happening but also something to say. Through all of the reveal-happy conclusion, director Bruce McDonald doesn't entirely make his message crystal clear which leaves the film all the better. You'll come away confused sure, but you'll also come away dying to discuss its implications, machinations and inferences. In something as small and unique as this that is really a major major success and successfully containing all of that intelligent content, in a film as slick as this, really makes Pontypool pretty close to essential.
'a terrifically compelling first half, and an Oscar-worthy performance by McHattie. But the second half collapses under the weight of its own over ambition' - Mendelson's Memos, B-