The last few years is what I would call the “rise of the zombies” due to the popularity of TV series such as “The Walking Dead” and “Ash vs. The Evil Dead,” and even in films such as “World War Z” or “The Train to Busan.” When it comes to zombie movies, the conventional thought is that there are these hordes of the undead that want to feast on the living to satisfy their primal urge to “eat.” However, this idea of how a zombie movie is supposed to be done is given a twist in the film “Pontypool.” At first it seems as if the film is just that, another zombie movie to the list of zombie movies that have already been released, but what separates “Pontypool” from the rest is what drives these zombies to want to kill.
The basis of the usual zombie film to where a protagonist goes out on a journey in order to find a cure for the outbreak to save himself and his family from this epidemic. We’ve even seen clips of the old zombie movies from the past that has an undead zombie calling out for “BRAINZ!!!!!,” but that is not the case in this particular film. Pontypool gives you the typical themes that come along with the everyday zombie movie, you have the blood and the swarm of zombies that force their way into the confined setting where they stay but what sets this zombie movie apart from the rest is what drives these zombies.
Where the stereotypical zombie functions to eat anything because it moves, the zombies in “Pontypool” are driven to kill and eat through the infection of the English language. The more a person speaks in English, the more likely they are to be contaminated by the virus. No longer is the protagonist and their companions journeying around the countryside or the world to find a cure for the disease a la “The Walking Dead” or “World War Z,” but the main protagonist, DJ Grant Mazzy and his producer are confined to their radio station while the hoard of zombies comes to them and must find the “cure” out for themselves.
This was an unexpected twist to what I would normally expect and I actually really appreciated this twist because in the end it is something new that I have yet to expect. This idea of infecting the English language that causes the outbreak can be seen in Joan Hawkin’s reading: “Sleaze mania, Euro-trash, and High Art: The Place of European Art Films in American Low Culture.” Hawkin uses the idea of paracinematic culture to describe a certain way in which to “appreciate all forms of cinematic trash.” Basically what Hawkin is saying is that there are films wherein we can actively choose to participate and engage with the film and keep our interests in it, or instead we can “turn off” our brain and just have the film play in the background while we cram for our various requirements that need to be done before we graduate (who in their right mind would do this right? ;)). There is also a distinction made between what is considered “high art” and what is considered “low art.” With Pontypool being a low budget, Canadian film it is easy to consider it “low art” as compared to the aforementioned films previously stated; but this idea is relative to the person watching the film. Personally I would consider it “low art” just because my standard of movies are much higher and have been greatly influenced by my desire to watch Hollywood produced films rather than indie films or foreign films.
Overall, although it did not really make me scared or really put me in a mood to not want to watch as compared to other films. However, I did enjoy how the beginning of the film where the radio’s “helicopter correspondent” was describing the scene where the zombies are attacking Dr. Mendez’s office. For me it reminded by of the radio drama back in the day, “The War of the Worlds,” where an “extraterrestrial attack” was being described on the airways and it was so realistic that it was thought to have been true for some. I also thought that the film was intelligently made in a sense that it really puts into action the notion that words hurt and you have to be able to communicate and say the right things otherwise face the consequences. I don’t know how many times I’ve been in trouble for saying the wrong thing, so if there is one thing I can take out of watching this film is that I should be conscious of what I say and think before I speak otherwise, metaphorically that is, it might lead to my downfall and death per say.