In recent years, films fans everywhere, particularly those drawn to the zombie genre and psychological thriller have not been left empty handed. Reinventions, rehashes, sequels, prequels, reboots, and just about any other form of the original “dead come back to life” plot devices have been produced in nauseating abundance. Eventually fans, myself included, started noticing that these films often became too convoluted for their own good. The zombies went from being written as mindless creatures with the simplest intentions (i.e. Zombie, Night of the Living Dead) to the eventual rewritten variations seen in such films as 28 Days Later and Quarantine.
Now these films have sparked interesting debate amongst horror fans for some years now. The traditional “fast vs. slow” debate became extremely popular after director Zach Snyder’s 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead. This particular film used extremely aggressive forms of the undead to completely change the pacing in which the films were originally recognized for. Quarantine later in 2008 spiced up the genre with a new documentary point of view and further variations of the origins and symptoms for these zombie-esqe antagonists, not much unlike Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later that was released in 2002. So keeping these few exceptions in mind, the market however is packed with an explosion of variations within genre. Many unfortunately that are not written well or satisfy on even the most basic of entertainment levels.
Considering all that was just said, it is a daunting task to find original, well written, and well executed films that have new and exciting stories while maintaining those little things we know and love within the zombie/horror genre. In my search, however, I came across one such film I must recommend. This of course is director Bruce McDonold’s 2008 psychological thriller Pontypool.
Pontypool is the story of newly located shock jock Grant Mazzy, played by Stephan McHattie, as he now works for a small-town radio morning show. Another normal day at work soon turns into a quickly escalated situation as the radio station is the sole reporting hub for the news of a local fast traveling virus that spreads in the people of Pontypool. The reports of the virus come in and grow worse with symptoms such as strange speech patterns and brutal acts of violence amongst the small town’s citizens. All of which is expressed through the reports and dialogue exchanged between Grant Mazzy and local eyewitnesses.
To say much more would ruin this film’s experience, but it has a sense of storytelling that is fresh and original in this fast paced film industry that we are used to at this time. With brilliantly written dialogue, excellent performances, strong tense filled moments and a wonderful story setting, this film delivers. Stephan McHattie, is most known for his performances in The Fountain, Watchmen, and 300, but excels as the lead in this film. With a smooth voice and clear delivery, I would listen to his character speak even if he wasn’t reporting about a rapidly spreading virus. Along side acting with McHattie is Lisa Houle and Georgina Reilly who put forth just as equally enjoyable performances.
The search will continue for equally clever and entertaining films in this genre, but until I find more, this should hold some of you over in the meantime.