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The Filmaholic Reviews: Pontypool (2008)

Posted on the 18 October 2013 by Filmaholic Reviews @FilmaholicRvews
The Filmaholic Reviews: Pontypool (2008)
The Lowdown: Pontypool is one of the best and most insidiously clever psychological thrillers I’ve come across. It takes a different approach to its material, and it is surprising at exactly how terrifying it is. I can’t say for certain exactly what point the film is trying to make, but I feel another viewing or two may clear that up. Based on a novel by Tony Burgess, Pontypool is wordy, but it is also smart, witty, and tense without having to resort to mindless carnage.
1. The Plot: On a cold, snowy day in the small town of Pontypool in Ontario, Canada, radio DJ Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie) begins receiving reports of a mysterious outbreak spreading rapidly through town. Trapped inside the radio station with only his two assistants, Mazzy attempts to make sense of the chaos that erupts.
2. The Characters:    Stephen McHattie (300, Shoot ‘Em Up, A History of Violence, 2012) is one of those actors who has shown up in a crucial supporting role in tons and tons of movies; everyone recognizes his face, but not everyone knows his name. Watching Pontypool, it is surprising how much of a presence he has and how great of an actor he is when he is the main character for once. As grizzled and disgruntled radio DJ Grant Mazzy, McHattie definitely has the right voice for radio. His voice has a presence to it, and as the film progresses, his witty and shocking remarks turn into fear and paranoia as events take a turn for the worst. Truly, McHattie owns the screen in this film.

The Filmaholic Reviews: Pontypool (2008)

It's not the end of the world. It's just the end of the day. 

   Mazzy’s two assistants also fare well in the acting department. Lisa Houle is Sydney, who struggles to keep Mazzy under control when he decides to rant on the radio. Her job must be stressful. Also, Houle happens to be Stephen McHattie’s wife, which explains the great chemistry they have on screen. The other assistant is Laurel-Ann, played by Georgina Reilly, who is excellent given her small role.
3. Radio Drama: Pontypoolis clearly heavily influenced by Orson Welles’ famous radio broadcast of War of the Worlds, which goes to show that shocking images aren’t required to scare the crap out of the audience. Since nothing can be shown, all one can do is listen to what is going on, and without seeing anything, what occurs is left to the listener’s imagination. The best radio dramas are indeed products of excellent writing and superb voice acting. In the case of Pontypool, virtually the entire film takes place inside a radio station, with our characters receiving snippets of outside news about the outbreak and its effects, and slowly realizing that they are trapped and helpless. Watching the film, one can see the characters crumble as the fear and paranoia set in. The viewer is more easily able to relate to the characters because, like them, he or she also can’t see what is going on and has no more information than the characters do. Twists and turns in the plot are unexpected and more shocking for the same reason.
The Filmaholic Reviews: Pontypool (2008)

The Bottom Line: Pontypool is a sharp, twisted, and clever psychological thriller that I feel I will get to understand better through multiple viewings. As a thriller, this is about as tense as it gets without resorting to the standard thriller and horror clichés. Its minimalist and radio-drama-style approach make for an interesting and captivating viewing experience. The performances themselves, especially by Stephen McHattie, are enough to even make it a great listening experience. Pontypool is a great and scary film, but WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? Well, it means something’s going to happen. Something big. But then, something’s always about to happen.
Pontypool is property of Ponty Up Pictures and Shadow Snows. This review was written by me.
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Copyright © Filmaholic Reviews, 2013

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