Pontypool: Neither Zombie Movie Nor Good Movie
Pontypool (2008) Movie Review
It’s a shame that such care and effort were put into an idea as ill-conceived as this. It reminds me of M. Night Shamalan’s Signs, where the aliens were defeated with… water!?!? What?! I sat through an hour and a half of movie to get that denouement?
Pontypool is marketed as a zombie film, it isn’t really. There are no undead. There is very little violence or gore. Most of the action is a guy doing a radio show. In the first hour, it builds up a nice amount of tension and mystery through effective acting, music, and sound design. Most of the creepy parts of the story unfold through on air phone conversations with radio host Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie) and Ken Loney (Rick Roberts) in the “sunshine copter”. Listening to poor Ken describe what is essentially an outbreak of a bizarre disease (like in The Crazies or 28 Days Later) is harrowing. Unfortunately, when we reach the third act the entire thing falls flat on its face.
The main problem with Pontypool is that it’s built on an implausible premise. [spoiler time] The root cause of all the craziness in the first hour of the film turns out to be a virus transmitted though speech. So when you hear a certain word or phrase, you get the virus. This is just too much to swallow. But it’s not just this silly idea that ruins Pontypool, it’s the stilted introduction of the idea with the arrival of the Doctor Mendez character. He just pops in through window and starts rattling off a string of stupid half-baked hypotheses. Then we continue sliding down this rabbit hole of improbability when we witness radio host Mazzy quickly and conveniently figure out the dumb cure to this preposterous disease and save his producer by inanely repeating “kiss is kill.” Or is it “kill is kiss?” Who cares? [spoiler over] By this point I was so angry at the shameful obliteration of the entire value of the film, I didn’t give a shit who was saved.
This film was based on a novel by Tony Burgess, I won’t be reading it.