The Horror Film as an Art

Pontypool (2009) was quite interesting in the sense that it was merely filmed inside one venue – the radio station located in some kind of Canadian town in Pontypool. It was personally frustrating to watch for me simply because from the beginning alone there was already seemingly so much action occurring outside of the radio station, however the auteur never gave the audience a chance to even get a glimpse of what was going on outside of the radio station. Bruce McDonald left it all up to our imagination based on what little information we were receiving while watching through the exchanged conversations between Grant and those on the “outside world” simply put. As well as the updates being given or discovered by those assisting the radio disco jockey, Sydney and her assistant Laurel who later on catches the terrible disease. Up until the end, I was left somewhat incomplete (even with the alternative ending) because while watching I found myself waiting to finally get a glimpse of what was happening since their was so much hype being built up with the information they were getting from inside. The only thing closest to somewhat viewer fulfillment I got was when the the zombie-like “wave” got through the doors and into the radio station which brought distraught to the characters unaffected inside.


Tony Burgess, who was the writer of the script and novel that it was based on did a good job though in creating such an engaging story that kept the audience glued into wanting to know what was going on outside the radio booth, as well as what was going to happen to those who were stuck inside as the situation continued to worsen. It was yet another simple setting that took place within just the radio station, mostly within the booth and the production side right outside of it. Yet, despite the lack in giving the audience a visual grasp of the story, Burgess was able to create an exchange of words that still kept curiosity alive for those watching the film. Sometimes it is true when they say that the unknown can really bring about fear within you, and that’s probably what he envisioned upon writing Pontypool. He took the typical “zombie infection” type of horror film, by changing the way virus-like diseases spread which is usually through physical contact. Burgess was able to create a scenario wherein the zombie infection was through certain triggers that could be transferred through communication and specific kinds of words used.


This being considered a Canadian film, you can take note of Joan Hawkin’s text into the context of this horror film.Taking note of Linda William’s analysis that horror films give a sense of emotion to the viewers – in this case fear. I feel that a movie such as Pontypool is one that can classify as high art because of the way it was filmed and presented by McDonald with the help of Burgess’ vision. It’s definitely far from the mainstream kind of horror film, but still gives the audience the same reaction of distress which is the outcome that is expected from this type of genre. You see the art really being challenged and presented by those involved in this movie, generating their creativity without the limitations of typical American blockbusters that are more often than not made to make a lot of money out of their movies. It caters to a more open-minded type of audience that are willing to accept alternative kinds of films that are outside the box and far from the typical norms. In the more recent years, there has been room for innovation of the cinematic art – especially with the different film festivals that are hosted throughout different continents all over the world. This is why despite the fact that this kind of movie isn’t one that I would exactly take my own initiative to look for and watch, I still found it very relevant to watch in this horror film course since it gives another sort of subgenre to the horror genre. It’s a fresh perspective for me to become open to, because I’m reminded of the fact that the world of cinema can be so vast not only in terms of interpretation, but also in innovation and vision as well.




Joan Hawkins, “Sleaze Mania, Euro-Trash and High Art: the Place of European Art Films in American Low Culture”


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