Hey, guys! I’m turning out to be the worst kind of blogger: the one who never updates. I apologize. Lately, my life has been super boring and nothing has made me overly gleeful or overly angry. Nothing new, anyway.
In light of the situation, I thought I’d share a movie review with you all. Last night, my husband and I watched a little film called Pontypool. It left an impression on me, partially because by the end, I was scratching my head. On the surface, it’s a new take on the zombie genre. However, I can’t help but feel that there’s an underlying subtext of something else going on the whole time. I’ll get to that in a minute. First, let me tell you a bit about the movie. Please be aware, there will be SPOILERS.
Pontypool was released in 2008 and was directed by Bruce McDonald. The stars are Stephen McHattie, Lisa Houle, Georgina Reily, and Hrant Alianak. The story is based on a book (which I’m gonna have to get) written by Tony Burgess, who also wrote the screenplay.
The story surrounds a small local radio crew: shock-jock turned local boy Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHatty), producer Sydney Briar (Lisa Houle), and technical director Laurel-Ann Drummond. Their morning starts off boring and typical with Grant trying desperately to make things interesting while Sydney tries desperately to reel him in and keep him on track. Everything changes when Laurel-Ann picks up a breaking story on the police scanner about a strange riot that is taking place outside of local physician Dr. Mendez’s clinic.
What starts as a welcome break in monotony soon devolves into full-scale panic as it becomes apparent that something is very, very wrong. Their man in the field, Ken, reports in while surrounded by the mob of muttering people and watches in horror as they pull a man from his vehicle and begin chewing him to death. As the audience, we all think to ourselves: “Zombie outbreak. Here we go!” This is, in a way, true. It’s also untrue. These are not zombies as Romero has taught us. This is something new.
For starters, these Zombies talk. In fact, they become fixated on a word or phrase and repeat it obsessively. We get to watch as tech wiz and Afghanistan veteran Laurel-Ann falls victim to this strange infection. Her conversation becomes almost unnoticeably disjointed at first as she starts to get stuck on the word “missing.” Then, she suddenly starts imitating the high-pitched whistling of the teakettle. As this is happening, Dr. Mendez himself joins the remaining crew and they lock themselves in the sound booth.
As Laurel-Ann comes out of her fugue, she tries to talk to the group locked in the soundproof booth. According to the good doctor, “She’s hunting us, though she doesn’t realize it yet.” The new zombies don’t hunt by smell they hunt by words. Laurel-Ann begins to become more incoherent and throws herself against the booth windows, trying desperately to reach her team. She chews her lips off in an effort to satisfy the virus controlling her. Finally, when she has been repeatedly unsuccessful at reaching her prey, she vomits up loads of blood and gore, and then drops down dead.
(MAJOR SPOILERS COMING)
It is then that the doctor realizes that the virus is not spread through physical contact, but through the English language. A word is spoken and for some reason, it’s infected. When it is truly understood, the speaker becomes infected with this audio virus. The only way for the victim to stay any kind of alive is to pass the virus to others.
Pontypool has become ground zero for a deadly and unstoppable audio virus. The only way to avoid it is to stop speaking. For some reason, it’s only English that is dangerous.
But there’s a cure! There’s a way to escape! Grant discovers a disinfectant as Sydney starts to succumb to the world “kill.” If understanding is the path to infection, misunderstanding must be the cure. He throws random words together with kill, trying desperately to associate something else with the infected word. The phrase that does the trick: Kill is Kiss. Kill is kiss. Kill is kiss.
Armed with their solution, Grant and Sydney take to the airwaves to try to spread the message. They’re going to save the world! Right up until the point where we hear a countdown being announced from above, in French. As the countdown reaches one, the screen goes black. As the credits roll, we are treated to news reports from all over the world. The virus has spread.
It sounds pretty straightforward and you’re probably all wondering why I was left feeling confused. To that I say: Go Watch the Movie! It’s not just about the story; it’s about the atmosphere. The entire film takes place inside this church basement. There are only four main characters we ever see (not counting the extras of zombies). The use of language and the way the characters speak is pure art. It’s delicious.
There’s also this feeling I can’t shake that none of it is real. Here’s where we get into my own interpretation of the film. Please, indulge me.
To me, the movie is not a zombie outbreak film, but a look inside the mind of a dying man. The way I understand the movie is that we are in Grant Mazzy’s mind as he lies dying. Each main character represents an aspect of his personality. Sydney is his logical side, trying desperately to make everything come together in a coherent fashion. Laurel-Ann is his youth and his hopeful naiveté. She dies first. Dr. Mendez represents Grant’s need to understand and explain what is happening to him. Even the zombies, in my opinion, represent whatever it is that is killing him. The fact that the virus is in language and that the victims get stuck on repeating words is a manifestation of his consciousness dying but trying to cling to life and logic.
I know. This is a pretty strange theory. Most people would go with how it’s a commentary on the issues between English-Speaking and French-Speaking factions in Canada. Or how we, as humans, put so much stock in language. However, there was such an oddly surreal feel to the film that I can’t help but feel there was something beneath it all. The plot seemed a little too bizarre (after you take into account what’s happening) and the scenes seemed a little too disjointed.
I’d love to know what anybody else thinks about all of this. Please feel free to comment below or shoot me an email. I feel like this movie is going to be stuck in my brain for quite some time. Time is all we have, and mine belongs to this movie for a long time. Time. Time… Time…