Directed by Bruce McDonald
Written by Tony Burgess and based on his novel
Words are a powerful thing. Did you ever take a simple word and repeat it over and over to yourself? A word as simple as ‘what’ or ‘who’ can become completely foreign to you if repeated enough times. “Pontypool” is a twist of zombie film in which the zombie apocalypse begins not with a virus, not with a comet passing over the earth; but instead it begins when the words we hear each and every day affect us in such a way that we are driven to unspeakable acts.
Stephen McHattie is Grant Mazzy, a radio DJ in the cold little town of Pontypool. Mazzy is the morning DJ, the guy that wakes you up long before that hot cup of coffee or that cold shower. In a film that echoes the October 30, 1938 radio broadcast of the “War of the Worlds“, Mazzy is our Orson Welles as he reports on the strange goings on in the town of Pontypool. The word ‘zombie’ is never used at any time in the film. It doesn’t have to be. As Mazzy speaks to eyewitnesses over the phone it is made all too clear that it’s the end of the world as we know it and that those fuckers in REM were wrong. Nobody feels fine because ‘fine’ may very well be the word that turns them into monsters.
This is as ingenious a horror film as you’re likely to see. There’s not a lot of gore, which may turn hardcore zombie fans off a bit. That doesn’t matter; what matters is that Pontypool is a new way of telling an old story. This is proof that words are so powerful that they can kill you.
If I hear the word ‘cunt’ one more fucking time…
Bruce McDonald, the director of the film, has said that the victims of the virus are called “conversationalists,” as opposed to “zombies”. In describing the stages of the virus, McDonald said: “There are three stages to this virus. The first stage is you might begin to repeat a word. Something gets stuck. And usually it’s words that are terms of endearment, like sweetheart or honey. The second stage is your language becomes scrambled and you can’t express yourself properly. The third stage is that you become so distraught at your condition that the only way out of the situation you feel, as an infected person, is to try and chew your way through the mouth of another person”.
Actress Georgina Reilly had a problem with her character’s having to “babble” and was concerned about what the words would mean to her character.
Tony Burgess, the film’s writer and the author of the novel on which the film is based – “Pontypool Changes Everything” – makes a brief cameo in the film as the male singer of Lawrence and the Arabians. His character is credited as “Tony (Lawrence)”. (In fact, at the end of the scene where the singers have performed for the bemused Grant Mazzy, Mazzy himself actually refers to Burgess’ character as “Tony Burgess.”)
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