New: Pontypool

Though I argue rather rabidly that “pure-bred” zombie apocalypse films — you know, those in the “end-of-the-world by viral cannibalistic corpses” sub-genre initiated by George A. Romero in Night of the Living Dead (1969) — must by definition feature ambulatory corpses, I am willing to admit that there is a class of apocalypse film that is so heavily influenced by the living dead tropes that some leeway has to be afforded them. I have heard it argued that the genre should be defined not simply by the inclusion of the literally dead, but by the presence of any form of brain-death or destruction of individual identity, including madness — and maybe such commentators have a point. Yet this approach seems rather problematic to me, and besides, not having the frisson of unnatural re-animation involved tends to significantly change the metaphorical basis of these films.

28 Days Later… is, of course, the most prominent contemporary example. Though the fact that its “monsters” aren’t dead or returned from death and can be shot and killed does, for me, exclude the film from entry to the Temple of the Living Dead, there’s little question that in other ways it looks like a zombie-apocalypse film and any extended discussion of the subgenre has to include it. Sometimes such films are a way of invigorating a genre that does tend, at times, to become rather repetitious.

Well, here’s another of this kind of zombie-apocalypse film — one of what I have elsewhere referred to us the “Nearly Dead” kind. This one takes quite a different approach and, from what I understand of it, offers considerable potential via its intriguing premise.

Pontypool (US-2009; dir. Bruce McDonald)



Shock jock Grant Mazzy has, once again, been kicked-off the Big City airwaves and now the only job he can get is the early morning show at CLSY Radio in Pontypool Ontario, which broadcasts from the basement of the small town’s only church. What begins as another boring day of school bus cancellations, due to yet another massive snow storm, quickly turns deadly when reports start piling in of people developing strange speech patterns and evoking horrendous acts of violence start piling in.  Bu there’s nothing coming in on the news wires.  Is this really happening?

Before long, Grant and the small staff at CLSY find themselves trapped in the radio station as they discover that this insane behaviour taking over the town is actually a deadly virus being spread through the English language itself. Do they stay on the air in the hopes of being rescued or, are they in fact providing the virus with its ultimate leap over the airwaves and into the world?

Pontypool is based on a popular novel, Pontypool Changes Everything by Tony Burgess, who also wrote the script. Filmed in the basement of the former Victoria-Royce Presbyterian Church in Toronto’s West End, the film will have its theatrical premiere in March. Visual Effects are being done by the  Mr. X Special Effects House in Toronto. Mr. X’s credits include such genre works as Resident Evil, Dawn of the Dead (2004), the recent Death Race remake, and Max Payne. It stars Stephen McHattie as the shock-jock Grant Mazzy and Lisa Houle as Mazzy’s producer, Sydney Briar.



Newcomer Georgina Reilly was cast as Laurel Ann Drummond, the radio station’s know-it-all technician.



And here is a clip that features some of the “monsters” turning up…

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