A great horror movie makes more of an impression on the psyche than any other kind of film. Hell, even a bad horror flick can scar you for life. There’s a phrase that every seasoned horror fan loves to hear: “Have you ever seen . . . ?” For the next 31 days, John E. Meredith will unearth some of his personal favorites that fell through the cracks, that are not so obvious, the kind that might even sneak up on you while you’re trying to sleep. Pontypool 2008, Canada. Directed by Bruce McDonald. Written by Tony Burgess, from his novel, Pontypool Changes Everything, and radio play. Starring Stephen McHattie, Lisa Houle, Georgina Reilly. “Your friend is sick. I’ve seen a lot of this lately. She doesn’t know it yet, but she’s hunting us.” Night has fallen on the small town of Pontypool, Ontario. Former shock jock turned radio announcer Grant Mazzy is pushing through a blizzard on his way to work. He stops the car for a moment and the snow swirls, pressing up against the windows. From out of nowhere a meagerly dressed woman appears. She seems to be hurt or confused. Mazzy calls out to her, asking, “Who are you?” She stands just beyond the car, repeating his words in a strange, almost disembodied voice. Then she turns, receding deeper and deeper into the whiteout. From the dark the words keep repeating, “Who are you who are you who are you?” Mazzy arrives at the radio station, where he is working with technical cowgirl Laurel and station manager Sydney Briar. There is a palpable tension between him and Sydney. He still wants to stir things up, explaining that a pissed-off person is an engaged person, while she says that people here just want to hear the school closures. While interpersonal drama goes on inside the station, much larger, more ominous ones are starting to unfold beyond the station walls. Gradually, accounts begin to come in about a variety of violent incidents taking place. There is an apparent hostage situation somewhere. More strange deaths than usual are occurring. A correspondent from the BBC informs the station workers that they’ve gotten reports about roadblocks around Pontypool, that it is possibly the military preventing anyone from entering or leaving. Mazzy goes to Ken Loney in “the Sunshine Chopper,” whose voice is noticeably shaken. There are hundreds of people pushed around a local doctor’s office, the building virtually exploding with them. Some are being trampled. There are military vehicles. Incoherent screams. Some of the perpetrators are speaking strangely, babbling. There are a couple kids trapped in a car under a mountain of people. And a herd of sorts forming near the edge of the forest. When the station cuts back to Loney, his voice is choked with sobs and fear. “I’m not safe here . . . grain silo . . . they came after me . . . some of them were naked . . . and their eyes . . . pulling people out of a van . . . biting them . . .” When they reach Loney again, he says that he’s found an infected, but apparently injured young man. The young man is mumbling to himself. He has no hands. He’s looking right at Loney. Loney says he’s going to move in closer to hear what he’s saying. The call is cut off again by a garbled transmission in French. The transmission is an instruction to remain indoors, not to use terms of endearment, phrases that conflict, or the English language. Pontypool is declared to be under quarantine. Loney is back on the line. He has crept up to the twisted and infected young man. From deep within the silence a strange childlike voice reaches out. “Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy.” The words go on and on and on until they seem to stop making sense. Stop making sense. Stop making. Sense. Sense. Stop sense. Making. Stop. You are forgiven if you don’t immediately realize that you’re watching a zombie movie. Even the movie’s director didn’t realize that that’s what he’d made. While he’s a huge fan of cinematic gut-munchers, Bruce McDonald was using a Tony Burgess book for a WAR OF THE WORLDS radio-drama kind of effect. He even stressed that the victims of the virus in the film were not zombies, describing the stages of the disease that is at work here: “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 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.” The infection in this case is spread through language. If you hear an “infected” word, you can become something that’s essentially a zombie. You don’t die and become reanimated, but your brain ceases to function normally and you suddenly want to attack those who are uninfected. At one point a group of actors come to the station to perform a scene from their musical “Lawrence of Arabia.” A young girl in the group forgets her lines and starts to repeat words in an endless and nonsensical loop. She frantically searches for a word that has some meaning she can latch onto. Her eyes grow wide with dawning fear. In another moment, striking much closer to the central characters, Laurel starts to speak erratically. “I’m gonna go see if Mr. Mazzy’s missing. Mi-missing. Mi-missing. Missing. Missing. Missing? As in – I mean – I mean, Mr. Mazzy. Mr. Mazzy’s missing . . .” She then mimics the sound of a teakettle she had just heard, standing in front of the sound booth, screeching. These are terrifying moments to watch, and not even a drop of blood is spilled. I get the sense that McDonald doesn’t want to refer to what happens here as zombie action because there is very little on-screen blood and absolutely no visible gut-munching. Due partially to a very limited budget, nearly all of the action takes place off-screen. But don’t let that fool you. If you surrender yourself to this movie, it will definitely drag you, speechless, into its very zombie-like spirit. See larger image Pontypool Shock jock Grant Mazzy has, once again, been kicked-off the Big City airwaves and now the only job he can get is the early morning show at CLSY Radio in Pontypool Ontario, which broadcasts from the basement of the small town s only church. What begins as another boring day of school bus cancellations, due to yet another massive snow storm, quickly turns deadly when reports start piling in of people developing strange speech patterns and committing horrendous acts. But there s nothing coming in on the news wires. Is this really happening? Before long, Grant and the small staff at CLSY find themselves trapped in the radio station as they discover that this insane behaviour taking over the town is actually a deadly virus being spread through the English language itself. Do they stay on the air in the hopes of being rescued or, are they in fact providing the virus with its ultimate leap over the airwaves and into the world? New From: 0 Out of Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related One Response Things Once Seen: Pontypool - Psycho Drive-In July 19, 2016 […] poster—and becomes the darling of Sundance. Pontypool, a Canadian horror-drama-comedy critical darling, could almost as easily be the fake film in that episode of The Office: Depending on the context, […] Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.