The indie horror film “Pontypool” doesn’t need special effects or buckets of blood to leave a mark.
The movie requires nothing more than a radio station set and a gravelly voiced star who sets the mood long before the zombies strike.
Stephen McHattie stars as Grant Mazzy, a grizzled DJ working for a small Ontario radio station. Think Don Imus, but with far better vocal chops.
He’s trying to antagonize listeners one chilly morning, all in the name of ratings, when some bizarre press reports start rolling into the studio. A local doctor’s office has been ransacked, and the station’s traffic reporter – who watches the cars from his Dodge perched atop a hill – can see the mob which did it. And they’re still hungry … for more than just a little rioting.
But what’s driving ordinary people to start feasting on one another, and could it have something to do with the station itself?
“Pontypool” takes its time before the horror elements kick in. No matter, since we could watch McHattie behind the mike all day. He’s an old timer with an edge, a man who hungers for hard news even if he’s been reading school closings for decades. Grant is politically incorrect and proud of it, and his eyes glow when he gets to use his program to do some really important work on his small town’s behalf.
His tangles with his producer (Lisa Houle) lend his show a whiff of danger, a factor the film exploits when the nearby riots creep closer to their station.
The reason for the riots is something horror fans will never see coming.
The film manages to find a new spin on the very tired zombie genre, but it nearly collapses when a key character is introduced mid-film, a man who seems to know what’s going on in their humble community.
“Pontypool” deflates the more we know about the threat facing Grant and his shoestring crew, but it’s still smarter than the average genre flick. The film’s socio-political themes tease out in intriguing fashion, though American audiences won’t appreciate the big twist here nearly as much as their northern cousins.
DID YOU KNOW: Pontypool, Ontario was settled in 1853 by John Jennings, Willia Ridge, Sr. and James Leigh and named after the town they hailed from in Pontypool, Wales.