Sunday, September 07, 2008


Bruce McDonald | 2008 | 95 min | Canada

DJ Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie), his producer Laurel Ann (Georgina Reilly), and station manager Sydney Briar (Lisa Houle) are all at work on a snowy Valentine's Day, putting on a talk radio show for smalltown Ontario. Mazzy's just been fired from his last DJing job and starts the show with some confrontational real talk to wake his listeners up. Soon though, reports start coming in about a mob of people attacking a doctor's office, a mere five kilometres from the church-cum-radio station. As more and more reports find their way on-air it becomes clear that the people are infected with some sort of word-virus that's driving them to violence.

After years of collecting dust, Bruce McDonald decided to pick up his apparently much more action oriented script based on Tony Burgess' Pontypool Changes Everything and write a new draft that he could make on-the-cheap with a small cast, and one location. The resulting script takes a lot of cues from Orson Welles' War of the Worlds radio broadcast, and pulls it off really well.

If Pontypool had been played as straight horror it would've fallen flat, but fortunately it doesn't take itself too seriously. It's well aware that the idea of a virus transmitted through terms of endearment and other common words is not just really interesting but also really ridiculous and funny. What it lacks in action and horror sequences, it makes up for in fun dialogue scenes and solid performances from its cast (especially McHattie, and Hrant Alianak, who appears later in the film as a character I won't name just for the sake of it being a mild spoiler).

Aside from seeing him on College St. in his cowboy hat, Bruce McDonald sort of took himself off my radar with the projects he's been choosing since his live broadcast of Michael Turner's American Whiskey Bar, so I was hesitant going into Pontypool. I was pleasantly surprised though by a really good little movie and one of the most playfully inventive ones I've seen of late (Note: I'm not even using the 'Canadian' qualifier). When the film rolls into your city be sure to catch it, sweetheart.

1 comment:

katarina said...

I just saw Pontypool this morning, and I agree - it's a fun little movie, and definitely more enjoyable than anything McDonald has made in the past decade.

It's nice to see him making smartly written, smaller budget films like this.