Saturday, March 25, 2017

Don't Watch This Alone!: PONTYPOOL

Welcome to another installment of DON'T WATCH THIS ALONE!, where we review the best, worst, and everything in between in the world of horror. This week we're looking at a horror movie about a strange phenomenon that happens when you start repeating words, 2008's PONTYPOOL.

Howdy fellow film freaks, Robert here. Full disclosure: Pontypool is technically and not incorrectly classified as a zombie movie, and if that makes you roll your eyes and groan, I don't blame you. Sir George Romero may not be dead, but his world is long gone, with the creatures he popularized way back in 1968 reduced to punchlines as brainless as the zombies themselves.

But no film genre ever really dies, it just goes to ground while the great thundering bandwagon of cynical mainstream popularity goes rolling through. It is, believe it or not, still possible to find good zombie movies these days, and while Pontypool is nearing its tenth anniversary, it is still one of the best zombie movies you've probably never seen.

It's tough to talk about Pontypool without spoiling it, and this movie is better the less you know about it going in, so if this review comes off as vague, I'm sorry. Pontypool is very similar to George Romero's Night of the Living Dead, focusing on a small, isolated group of survivors trying to endure extraordinary events while having almost no concrete understanding of just what is going on. This lack of reliable information is made all the more horrible by the fact that our survivors are the host and crew of a morning AM talk radio show. As the film progresses, the setting never moves out of that radio studio, and we are kept just as much in the dark as the characters are, giving the film a great psychological impact. These survivors will perhaps learn more about what is going on than Ben and Company did in that farmhouse, but that doesn't mean they're going to fare any better in the end.

The great thing that separates Pontypool from the rest of zombie cinema, though, are the monsters themselves. Instead of being yet another crop of reanimated corpses, or otherwise living people infected with some supervirus or other, Pontypool's zombies come from a much more relatable place. What exactly has happened to Pontypool's infected is kind of hard to explain, but it has its roots in that strange phenomenon that occurs when you repeat a word over and over: eventually it loses all meaning and becomes a pattern of incomprehensible sound. As kids, we've all done this at one time or another. It's not simply the repeating of words that creates zombies in this movie, of course, but it's a symptom of infection. I love it when horror movies start from an idea I can relate to and build from there.

Pontypool may have a slightly silly premise, and it unfortunately includes a gross-out scene that is not only unnecessary, but makes no sense given what we know of the infected by that point. But it recovers well, and ends in a way that, once again, invokes Romero's original zombie classic. If you want a zombie movie that tries something new, or just one that's smarter than it's monsters, this is the one.

Pontypool is not rated, but contains scenes of violence and some gore.

Robert's Score: 9 / 10

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