Pontypool (2008)
By: J.R. McNamara on June 7, 2011  | 
Anchor Bay | Region 4, PAL | 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 5.1 | 96 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Bruce McDonald
Starring: Stephen McHattie, Lisa Houle, Georgina Reilly, Hrant Alianak, Rick Roberts
Screenplay: Tony Burgess
Country: Canada
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OK, we've had so many 'disease' and 'pandemic' films that I admit I am pretty much frightened by anyone I come across who has so much as a sniffle. Like an OCD sufferer working at a sewerage plant, I have also started washing my hands a lot more than I ever did, and tend to carry around hand sanitiser. Thanks a lot, films about sickness turning people nuts (I am particularly looking at you, 28 Days Later)! One thing, though: what if the disease wasn't transferred by a virus, but instead was transferred by an idea? My hand sanitiser would be rendered useless! This is a concept explored in the film Pontypool.

Pontypool is based on the novel Pontypool Changes Everything by Tony Burgess, who wrote the screenplay and also has a guest appearance in the film. The film is directed by Bruce McDonald, who also directed The Tracey Fragments, and as he did with that that film, he proves here he is a filmmaker who can keep a story interesting with great directing and brilliant editing.

Pontypool tells the story of radio announcer Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie of Watchmen), who after an undisclosed problem at a previous radio station can't get a gig other than in the church basement based radio station CLSY in the small Ontario town of Pontypool. On his way to work, a woman confronts him in his car, and after a bizarre meeting, she disappears into the snow. 

Mazzy makes his way to work where he is greeted by his co-workers, radio show producer Sydney Briar (Lisa Houle, McHattie's actual wife, and TV actress) and technical gal, Laurel-Ann (Georgina Reilly) and the usual day of radio work begins... that is until a disturbing call from their traffic reporter, Ken Loney (Rick Roberts) where he reports a flood of chanting people attacking a Doctor's office, and each other, violently.

Mazzy and his crew attempt to get more information on the story, but as time wears on, they become more fearful of their lives and the lives of their families. It is an outbreak of a disease causing the townsfolk to go mad and kill, and so the inhabitants of the church need to hide out. They make an idea of what the symptoms are and are assisted by a local M.D., Doctor Mendez (Hrant Alianak) who hides with them to escape the mob of infected, and he describes exactly what he believes is going on.

So Mazzy and his compatriots are trapped in a radio station with hordes outside wanting to get in, but what will they do? How will they get out? And what if the virus isn't a traditional airborne one, but something more insidious and new, like an idea... or a word?

Though this story is a cracking one, without the right direction or cast, this could have easily been a shemozzle. Luckily, McHattie proves himself to be a solid performer who really holds the show, and has some worthy supports who keep their game up to his level.

I must warn people though: it seems that this film has been advertised as a zombie film, but I don't see it. This is a drama set in a horrific situation that maintains an air of tension throughout, and there are no zombies of the Romero, Fulci or even Snyder kind. What there are are people who are infected with a disease who can't comprehend what is wrong with them. The science of how the infection is transmitted is a little hokum, but bear with it; the explanation comes, and while it may be a little hard for some to visualise, it is worth it. 

Also, make sure you listen throughout the credits for radio reports of what happened in the town, and keep watching after the credits for a strange epilogue.

As a side note, whilst watching this film I kept thinking, with its one main location, and information being filtered in via radio and telephone, that this would have the potential of being an interesting and compelling stage play. Upon researching it, I discovered that it has previously been a radio play for BBC World and that the tale itself was influenced by Orson Welles' production of War of the Worlds in 1938.
An excellent image presented in its intended 2.35:1 aspect ratio with no problems at all. Considering the fact that the film really is only 2 locations, while the colour palette of the film remains constant, it does, due to the director's visual touches, remain interesting.
I must say a brilliant track, presented in Dolby 5.1, that takes advantage of the format when the film needs to display sounds from outside, feedback and other audio tricks to enhance the viewing experience.
Extra Features
In an act typical of Australia region 4 DVD releases, this DVD has n extras other than trailers for I Sell The Dead, Blue Seduction, Dante's Inferno, The Day of the Triffids (2008) and Ghost Machine. None of the extras presented on the region 1 disc - including a commentary track from director Bruce McDonald and writer Tony Burgess, short films, and the original radio play - are present, which translates into a big 'Fuck you' to Australian horror films fans.  
The Verdict
Pontypool is one of those films that come along and surprises you, but it's really only a single watcher. There are however some fascinating psychological concepts in this film that, if you are like me and the people I watched it with, it will be discussed for several hours afterwards.
Movie Score
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Overall Score

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