Saturday, October 27, 2012

Pontypool: The Talking Dead

With apologies to Chris Hardwick, but I couldn't resist. This 2008 microbudget Canadian horror flick is a nice creepy way to kick off Halloween, and it streams! Pontypool is a small town in Ontario, where everyone knows each other, and the local morning DJ Grant Mazzy (who looks like a craggier Willem Defoe, if that's possible) reports the traffic, obits, and lost pet stories as he heartily spikes his morning coffee and spars with his producer, Sydney. Except this Valentine's Day, Ken the traffic reporter (whose "chopper" is a Dodge parked on a hill) starts to talk of "herds" of people roaming the town, hunting and devouring other citizens.

The entirety of the action takes place over ten or so hours in the tiny church basement while Grant continues to try to broadcast the developing catastrophe and figure out what is happening outside and upstairs. The claustrophobic setting works well, as eye-witness descriptions of ravening humans tend to be more frightening than the images themselves. Though you will get a bit of that, as the not-quite-zombie hordes center in on the radio station. And about that ontological ambiguity . . .

One of my pet peeves about The Walking Dead is that no one, after learning of a mysterious plague that causes the dead to rise and feast on the living, says, "Oh, like zombies?" Pontypool avoids this blind spot by making the monsters not quite zombies. And the explanation for the horror is actually pretty clever and satirical. I won't give it away here, but rest assured, English majors will enjoy it.

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