“Pontypool” (2008)

pontypool

By Jerome Reuter

In this modern age of advanced media, it’s easy to forget about the power of radio. For decades, the airwaves were a primary source of entertainment. This brings me to the 2008 film, Pontypool. This film is nothing short of genius.

The entire film takes place in a radio station, with a broadcaster named Grant Mazzy. The film’s first act establishes the setting of Pontypool–a small, rural, Canadian town. Rather than seeing images of the town itself, we’re made aware of everything through radio broadcasts. At first, things just seem like any other day in your average town. However, a bizarre mystery begins to unravel.

Calls flood the station, regarding a riot, and what appears to be an epidemic. Once again, we don’t see anything, everything is left to our imagination. This is where things begin to take an interesting turn, and the lines of fact or fiction are blurred. Are the events unfolding actually happening, or is it an elaborate hoax?

One thing’s for certain, the public takes these events quite seriously. Mass hysteria and paranoia set in, and mob mentality takes over. This turn of events reminded me of Orson Welles’ original broadcast of War Of The Worlds–although a work of fiction, its impact was very real. Many people began to panic, as they felt there really was an alien invasion occurring.

As the film progresses, we learn the events occurring outside the station are really happening. This is the perfect example of horror being what you don’t see. Rather than displaying some massive epidemic, we see the effects happen to only one person. Our imaginations are left to create the outbreak in the world outside the station. This also throws us into the paranoia of being isolated, from the chaos that continues to unfold.

Finally, we learn the cause of the epidemic. It isn’t an infestation, or a virus. It isn’t anything one might normally expect from a film such as this. So, what is the cause? The English language itself. The disease spreads by means of spoken word. We’ve been at the mercy of oral descriptions throughout this film, and it’s the catalyst for the horror we’ve only been able to imagine.

Pontypool is in a class all by itself. An intelligent work that reminds us all of the power of the spoken word.

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One thought on ““Pontypool” (2008)

  1. Nice review. I loved this film, too. The performances couldn’t be faulted and the size of the world outside the radio booth made it easy to forget that this is a film rooted firmly in the “single location” group of inventive thrillers.

    When you say that it is “the English language itself” that is the source of the virus, rather than just “language itself,” it does get the mind turning on whether or not there might be any colonial implications here. North America has produced much of the pop culture that has both enriched and corroded foreign cultures in a global marketplace and, as a Canadian film, Pontypool takes place in a country where language is still one of the most dangerous weapons against the survival of indigenous and, by extension, rural ways of living.

    Liked by 1 person

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