Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Pontypool (2008)

I came across Pontypool on a website promising to be the definitive list of best horror from 2008. Two titles stood out as features I hadn't heard of and wanted to see, on the back of the glowing reviews. I don't know what it is with me and horror movies lately. I don't enjoy the pap bandied about by self proclaimed 'horror aficionados' - Drag me to Hell, The Ring, The Grudge and so on - and I really get into movies that somehow missed out on the love. Not necessarily smaller movies, niche or indy stuff like Splinter - also big budget movies like Silent Hill.

I really enjoyed Silent Hill
I really enjoyed Silent Hill

Anyway, I'm reviewing Pontypool today, a movie that falls firmly into the 'small film' niche. Small film, small budget, one location for the entire movie (except the beginning and end). Pontypool tells the tale of a real honest to goodness cowboy, Grant Mazzy played by Stephen McHattie, working as a radio DJ. Once he was a big star in the big smoke, now he spins shit and discs in small-town Pontypool. Once cold, snowy day, Grant and his two off-siders - Sydney (Lisa Houle) and Laurel-Ann (Georgina Reilly) - begin receiving increasingly disturbing phone calls about riots and mayhem around the town. Safe, or so they think, in their little radio station, they listen with increasing horror as the town outside falls apart.

I spilled my cordial and it formed in the image of a cowboy! Shame, I was hoping for a naked woman.
My spattered blood forms in the image of a cowboy. Shame, I was hoping for a naked woman.

While fairly well made, Pontypool annoys me through all the missed opportunities. After about and hour of decent build up, nothing striking is done with the built up tension and great concept. There was a huge opportunity to follow through with a truly scary second half but instead I saw a hokum and slightly silly segment about the plague outside being transmitted by sound, the characters running about the small set like headless chickens and some boring zombies. Where the first half was eerie and filled with a slight sense of impending doom, well built through the use of phone calls and the isolation of the protagonists from what was happening, the second half was flaccid and boring.

And that's about all I can say because that's all that happened. The ending wasn't a Deus Ex Machina so to speak, but it negated all the work Grant and Sydney did trying to save their own lives and perhaps stop the plague. Still, by that stage the movie had outlived it's premise and I was ready for it to end anyway.


Summary: A watchable movie that would have worked better with a little more show, a little less tell and a much better second act.

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