Zombies. Obsession would probably be the nicest way you could describe it. Everything about a zombie outbreak and how the world would cope with it fascinates me. Zombies are a physical manifestation of a viral epidemic. Instead of being a silent assassin that creeps from victim to victim, zombies are loud, careless, destructive, but most importantly, they are unwavering in their purpose. The only thing that stops them is more destruction and it requires anyone stopping them to disassociate themselves from humanity. Standing before you is a human who has turned into something else, but you hope that humanity still exists. Once you’ve finally accepted survival is the only option you take control of your situation and fight back. It’s a struggle I love to fall into and question endlessly. How far would you go to save yourself?
Pontypool asks and answers that question without any hesitation. It’s a shock of freshness into a genre of film that has taken on a new life in the last decade and I’m excited to see people are still trying to push it to new boundaries.
In honor of the Superbowl and the fact that I flat out loved this film I went a bit overboard in this recap and even added a new twist at the end. Welcome to all 2400 words of the wonder that is Pontypool.
I could never in a million years properly describe the opening of this movie. Instead, I’ll just give you the video.
All right, that’s out of the way. Let’s see what’s in store. It’s snowing and Cowboy Hat is yelling at Rick and now he’s fired. Also, the sound is off by like 1 second. This is Netflix! How is the sound off?
Crazy lady slams her hand on Cowboy Hat’s car and slowly walks back into the snow. This guy needs to get where he’s going. I’ve seen too many horror movies and it’s going to get bad soon. If there is ever a crazy lady even near you when you first get to work, you’re in for one hell of a day. Apparently, he works in a radio station.
Cowboy Hat is named Mazzy. I always find it interesting how they introduce characters in movies. First, Cowboy Hat says to himself, “OK Mazzy, come on boy. Please. Be positive.” He does this while staring at the palm of his hand. Then a cute girl in the station says, “Good morning Mr. Mazzy.” In less than 5 seconds they’ve made sure you know his name is Mazzy. I’d be lying if I don’t always wait to see how long it takes to find out what people’s names are in movies. Cute girl is named Laurel-Ann. I kind of like that name. Has a nice ring to it.
Mazzy wants to know all the info on the last 24 hours worth of 9-1-1 calls. He also has a stuffed monkey in his booth and is doing a little drinking. This guy has a great radio voice and the topic of his show will be, “When do you call 9-1-1?” Laurel-Ann is a soldier whose last tour was in Afghanistan. That’s some foreshadowing for you. Sydney is introduced next by making fun of Laurel-Ann for being a homecoming queen or something and Mazzy calls her out for it. I’m truly loving how quickly they can throw names out and get this all set up. If only Breakfast at Tiffany’s had taken the time to introduce a character for one freaking second!
Mazzy is talking to a helicopter reporter named Ken, but I’m really doubting there is a helicopter out in the middle of snow storm. Methinks there be some chicanery afoot. The conversation switches to pot growing and Mazzy seems to be pro-marijuana and anti-landmine. Trust me, those two go together more than you might realize. He is pushing the boundaries today and gets cut off by Sydney. He explains he’s trying to piss people off because if they’re pissed off they won’t change the station. Not so fast Mazzy! Fox News pisses me off so I not only changed the station, I moved to the other side of the planet. That’s how I roll. Also, Mazzy has a stick up his butt for some reason. Perhaps he was a big time radio star in a former life and is now relegated to some small town hole of a station in Pontypool.
There’s a long shot of a flyer for Honey the Cat and Mazzy gets going on about the crazy lady who attacked his window and then moonwalked away into the snow. In a full disclosure moment, I had to search moonwalk to make sure it was only one word. Wikipedia has never been wrong, right?
Mazzy keeps giving Laurel-Ann creepy looks and she gives them right back. Other people that work at the station haven’t shown up for work yet. I mean, I know bad things are going to happen, but they are really doing a fine job of setting this all up. There is a hostage situation in a van somewhere now. The drama keeps on building folks. Mazzy talks and talks and Sydney hates him and hates him. They have a complicated relationship we’ll learn more about later. The hostage situation was just a bunch of drunk ice fishermen who were freaking out about something happening on the ice.
Ken is not in a chopper! I knew it. He does the report out of his Dodge Dart and uses sound effects. He sits on a hill to get his bird’s eye view. I’m not going to lie. I laughed out loud.
Sydney explains to Laurel-Ann the constable is worried about whatever happened with the ice fishermen. More breaking news. A huge crowd of “unruly” people is protesting outside a doctor’s office. Unruly is an odd description and I’m thinking not a very accurate one. Ken and his hill’s eye view goes live with coverage of the crowd. The office is overrun with the “protesters” and law enforcement is nowhere in sight, but a military convoy and helicopters suddenly appear. Yep, shit just got real. Ken messes up and says “shit” on the air. Sydney nods her head disapprovingly. Lady, the last thing you need to worry about is someone saying a naughty word on the radio.
Ken’s live remote gets more grim and I love movies that can take something as simple as audio and really drag you into the plot. This guy was presented as a bit of joke earlier but hearing him describe the chaos really adds to the sense of horror that has been building for a while. Ken is a happy guy who likes to pretend he’s in a helicopter. To hear him audibly lose control when everything around him is in the midst of chaos is truly frightening. I’m really digging this movie. I’m 23 minutes in and more than 900 words down in the recap. That’s how you know I like it.
Ken’s signal is lost and we find out he is only 5 kilometers away from the station. I said it earlier, but shit is going down y’all. A family strolls into the station dressed as Lawrence and the Arabians. The main guy has on a turban, fake beard, and is holding an Uzi. You know, because that’s what all Arabians look like. They are there to talk and sing a song. Mazzy is crazy upset he has to deal with this group, because as I said earlier, shit is going down.
The song is horrible and why on earth would you wear a costume to a radio show? One of the little girls starts freaking out. She can’t “remember how it ends” and starts repeating the word “pra” over and over.
After the group leaves, Mazzy goes live to someone at the riot and all we hear is yelling and chaos. Everyone that calls in to the show to report what’s going on either ends up yelling or the line goes dead. The constable calls in to say it all started with an old lady in a nursing home. Her room was surrounded with people trying to get in and chanting nonsense about Hitler and hurricanes.
BBC One calls in and Mazzy realizes he’s talking live to all of Canada. The BBC guy is relaying news they haven’t heard about yet. It’s way worse than anyone knows outside the radio station. The BBC believes it’s because of terrorism. I really think that’s how a zombie outbreak would be classified in this day. As an act of terrorism. What a world we live in.
Ken is back in the chopper/hill and is crying and beyond frightened. He’s been chased to a grain silo and has seen “things that will ruin the rest of his natural life.” This guy is great. He’s built all the intensity of this film on his voice alone. Brilliant. He describes an attack as it happens. “It’s almost like they have to be inside them.” Amazing way to explain the attack. A kid with no hands breaks into the silo and Ken goes to check it out! Don’t do IT!!! He hears the kid whispering and tries to get close enough to hear what he’s saying. The tension in this scene is unreal as Mazzy is calmly pleading with him not to get next to the boy. There is loud static and then a man speaking in French is heard. Laurel-Ann translates the message.
“For your safety please avoid contact with close family members and restrain from the following: all terms of endearment such as honey or sweetheart. Don’t talk with young children and rhetorical discourse. For greater safety please avoid the English language. Please do not translate this message.”
Pontypool has now been quarantined and everyone is told to stay inside. Ken is back and is next to the boy again and is going to let us listen to what he’s saying. They told you all to quit using English people! Don’t exacerbate this problem!!!
I can’t even describe the sound. Ken describes it as, “it sounds like a child is screaming inside his breath.” I couldn’t agree more. The second Mazzy hears the sound, something changes in him. His eyes go a bit more wild than before and he immediately begins hearing things.
Mazzy tries to leave after his tiny breakdown and Sydney is trying to keep him reigned in. He’s insisting he go outside. Mazzy loses it and claims he’s being messed with, that somehow this a conspiracy against him. He runs outside, but is immediately pulled back inside. Seconds after the doors close there are people banging on the doors trying to get in. They are yelling the exact same words Sydney yelled at Mazzy when she pulled him back inside. Shit = going down.
Mazzy begins talking in memoriam about people who have been killed and by who and how they were killed. It’s an amazing moment. Think about that. He’s describing people being murdered who then in turn come back and murder more people. What would you do if you heard that on the radio? Bob killed Glenda who then killed Danny who then killed Margo. Amazing way to carry the plot forward.
Laurel-Ann starts to fade in and out or normalcy. She thinks Mazzy is missing even though he’s just a few feet away from her in the station. Sydney finds her standing in the middle of the room singing one note continuously. Suddenly, the doctor whose office was torn apart crawls into the station through a window. This is the first time they’ve taken me out of the movie. Why did this guy need to suddenly appear? He better offer something good to the story.
He notices Laurel-Ann and takes Sydney to the booth with Mazzy. Laurel-Ann breaks out of her tune and begins repeating the business about Mazzy being missing. Even she realizes something is wrong and covers her mouth to try and stop her madness. She begs to get into the sound booth with the rest of them.
Doctor: “She might lose track of where we are if she can’t hear us.”
This movie is brilliant. Zombies who hunt on sound. Amazing. True to the doctor’s word, Laurel-Ann stops trying to get into the booth after a few seconds and walks away. Mazzy begins to interview the doctor and Laurel-Ann begins to run into the booth as she hunts for voices.
Doctor: “She doesn’t have a victim yet so I’m not sure how this will end. A victim suicides, but a victim needs a victim to suicide into.”
Ken’s back in the grain silo and is reporting people have been passing him by chanting, “look out for U-Boats.” As Ken talks, his words get jumbled together like Laurel-Ann’s did earlier. I fear for Ken now. Whatever this is has taken hold. It was only a matter of time I guess. There is a revelation about him that I’ll leave for those that actually take the time to watch this great film.
Laurel-Ann is outside the booth and is bleeding from the mouth mumbling something.
Mazzy: “Can she read lips?”
A whole new side to this illness is dropped on us. The doctor is slowly figuring out the disease. It’s viral, but it’s not from blood and it’s not airborne.
Doctor: “It is in words…. Some words are infected and it spreads out when some of the contaminated words are spoken.”
A virus created from language. AMAZING.
Humorous moment when Sydney, the doctor, and Mazzy realize maybe they shouldn’t be talking at all.
That’s it guys. I can’t spoil this movie for you. Try and find this movie. The ending is worth everything you’ve just read.
The thing I love about this movie is how quickly they moved from panic to acceptance. A lot of zombie movies have protagonists who insist nothing is wrong. They even refuse to use the word zombie because that will make what is happening all the more real. The entire setting of this movie is a radio station and the characters only knowledge is what they’ve been told is happening, but they easily accepted how quickly their world has fallen apart. There is tons of symbolism wrapped up in how they slowly moved from the wide open radio station to locking themselves into a tiny sound booth. They are becoming smaller in a world that has lost control. They are in the center of a rope as an invisible enemy sets both ends on fire and waits for the flames to meet in the middle. None of this could have been accomplished without the acceptance of their fates. It’s just excellent storytelling.
I’m going to a taping of Britain’s Got Talent and will try and put together a post before Sunday.