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Film Four Stars
I had not heard about Pontypool until the Edinburgh International Film Festival screened it, and the few words I looked up to decide whether or not to see it were very complimentary, and rightfully so.

It's billed more as a psychological horror and/or thriller, and rightly so, for this is much more thoughtful than your average horror, but still provides for laughs and a few moments of blood while packaging them up in a great film that might have people rethinking the idea of zombies.

Plot.pngPontypool tells the story of a small radio station in a town in Ontario during a dark and snowy day that bears witness to a strange event, an outbreak of some form of virus that captures the attention of the world.

TheFilm.pngThe film stays concentrated on the people within the radio station, and at the beginning of the day that comprises of the DJ Grant Mazzy, played by Stephen McHattie, the producer of the show Sydney Briar, played by McHattie's wife Lisa Houle, and the production assistant Laurel Ann, played by Georgina Reilly. Although another character ot two appear in the film, they are either by voice or they enter the radio station, so the location never changes apart from the outdoor introduction as we follow Mazzy to work.

That gives the film great power as we join the cast as they become witnesses to the event through their listeners and their traffic reporter above the town. Like the film Signs, and a number of other horror films at this year's Edinburgh International Film Festival, the focus is on the personal event, on the characters and their dealings with the much bigger events going on around them.

Something else I noticed with Pontypool from quite early on is how it could be gleamed as a modern day take on Orson Welles' War of the Worlds broadcast, and at times it feels almost as powerful.

Of course for a modern day version of that great Orson Welles' moment, we would have to resort to so many forms of communication to fool the audience it would be impossible, but a little suspension of disbelief while watching Pontypool and you'll be sucked right in to the shock and terror that those in the radio station are experiencing as they listen to the events outside.

The film opens well with a taped broadcast of Mazzy, with McHattie's superb voice and a visually engaging graphic which grows throughout his show opening. This provided for a couple of sniggers but also a great way to grab the audience and tell them that this is going to be something a little different.

After this we see another unusual scene in comparison to the rest of the film, the scenes of Mazzy heading to the radio station, and this is set to be the last time we really see the outside of the radio station.

It not only provides a good set-up for the character and the location, but it also shows us that the film is going to look good, for all these scenes in the dark snow storm are very well shot with great lighting and framing, and the sudden surprise worked a treat as well as the melting into the storm.

The style doesn't stop there either, as soon as the film enters the sound booth and the show begins you can see there's a real concentrated effort to keep this confined film visually engaging, and it works perfectly. The film looks great and with the camera moving and picking some well lit shots while the audio concentrated on the gravel-like radio voice of Mazzy.

I really loved the way it kept the focus on this location and still managed to make the film so engaging, and it's not all down to the camera work and cinematography, because what really builds the tension are the audio reports coming in from the outside and how the characters react to them, building the tension both in the studio and the audience, particularly during the audio reports from the traffic reporter as he witnesses the beginning of the outbreak and then tries to hide from the infected.

These interactions with the news reports were the highlight of the opening sections of the film, really driving the the film forward and the tension upwards, and they also provide some moments of laughter to break the tension, the funniest being the live link up with the BBC, much to Mazzy's surprise.

There's a lot of fun in the film too, and it makes for some good moments to break the tension and allow it to be built back up again, but it's not all perfect. Around the middle of the film events take a little turn, and where I was hoping that the film would stay in this single location concentrating on the reports, the terror becomes a little more real and the attempts to explain what is happening begin.

The idea behind the plot is pretty interesting and very unique, but when it tries to delve into the explanation of why and how to solve it, everything becomes just a little silly. Saying that though, the writers do manage to keep it within the context of the film and to feel like it's adding some fun to the events and the characters. I just loved the first half so much it was a little disappointing for the change to come.

However the film wasn't ruined by this idea, nor was it pushed out of the realms of believability, it manages just to keep it in the world created in the film, and you do stay with it, laughing at a few points on the way, but then the film is laughing too.

Through this latter half there were some false moments where I thought there was a chance to discover some answer to the situation, and I suspect that this might have been deliberate, giving us and the characters a way out but then letting it slip through their fingers, and with hindsight I think it was a nice touch, a bit of misdirection for us all.

The ending was good and rather satisfying, although it did have a rather bizarre solution to the events, mind you it did fit well with the rest of the idea and it was very imaginative. Be aware it continues through the credits with some further radio broadcasts.

Oh, and there's also a post credit sequence. Nobody in the cinema new what it was all about and it raised great laughter afterwards, and I think a lot of that was down to the fact that by the end of the film there really is a great affection for the lead character of Mazzy.

Overall.pngI really enjoyed Pontypool, despite some issues it was intelligent, different, visually engaging and had some laughter in there too.

While I really did love the first half, I do wish that the style and feel of that continued on to the second half, while the second half isn't bad, it's just that I really did like the first half and wanted to see more of that carried through the rest of the story.

However the second half is handled well, the humour aspect, the slightly silly plot turn, and the arrival of the zombies themselves,

Stephen McHattie is superb in his role, and you really do get to love the character and want to see more of him.

Filmstalker at the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2009
Buy or Rent from Lovefilm
UK IMDB Film Details



I really enjoyed this unique film and your review of it. I have one question. Is it a zombie movie? [Link moved to link section - Richard]

Have you watched the film? I think it's any come back to life monster you'd like to believe it is, and I'd think that's a zombie.



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