Thursday, April 14, 2016

Inside the Canadian Zombie Apocalypse, or Thoughts on Pontypool

The Canadian zombie apocalypse is relayed from a small town radio station, from conversations between callers and the DJ, and the producer in the sound booth, in Pontypool (2008), a clever, economical film that plays with the audience’s expectation while still generating a considerable amount of terror.  Veteran actor Stephen McHattie (his iMDB page lists 192 credits and goes back to 1952) plays Grant Mazzy, a big-city shock jock working the graveyard shift at his radio station in Pontypool, Ontario.
In many ways this movie is a radio drama with visuals, it would work as stage play or even a book on tape.  The story is told, not shown, and the viewers become complicit in the drama because we need to listen.  Frightened callers describe naked cannibals and people imitating windshield wipers instead of showing these scenes.  A surprising amount of tension can be generated through dialogue, old-fashioned storytelling and analog sound effects like a boiling teakettle.
Grant reports on the breaking news; riots, hostage situations and introduces Ken in the Sunshine Chopper, (which is actually a Dodge Dart on a hill with a view of the town) as he reports on the chaos he’s witnessing.   Ken’s frantic reports are reminiscent of the Hindenberg, referencing an actual radio disaster that captivated the nation.
However the good citizens of Pontypool aren’t rising from the dead and eating brains.  They’ve been infected, but not by a bloodborne pathogen passed through bites but rather a word, or the sound of a word.  It is truly terrifying when we actually see the virus come on like a mental disorder or a stroke where the victim starts repeating words, babbling and then becoming violent.
Society breaks down as communication becomes unreliable and dangerous.  The infected in tongues and chant nonsensical phrases, and the tragic irony is the story is told from a radio station, which is inadvertently spreading the virus through the auditory sound of infected words and phrases.  Along with Stephen McHattie, Pontypool features Lisa Houle as the station manager and Georgina Reilly as Laurel-Anne, the producer.

Pontypool is one of the most non-zombie zombie movies, in a list that includes 28 Days Later (2003), George A. Romero’s The Crazies (1973, and the 2010 remake), John Carpenters Attack on Precinct 13 (1976), and David Cronenberg’s Rabid (1977).


my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.