Zombies, in my opinion, are one of the greatest monsters out there. They’re vicious, relentless, terrifying, multiply as time passes by, but brainless. Although they may move in hordes, their quite easy to manipulate according to video game and movie logic. Making them in a way…fun to kill. It seems like every game that comes out has this zombie horde mode where all you do is shoot endless waves of zombies in the head. I am also certain every year, at least 10 zombie movies will be released in theaters. So in the end, although zombies are great monsters, the market becomes too oversaturated with zombie films that the sub-genre would generally be considered b-class and no one really expects anything from it. Take for example Resident Evil. I remember before it was all the rage but now it’s just an afterthought when choosing between what movie to watch for the weekend. Once-in-a-while however, we find a gem hidden under the pile of undead corpses like Pontypool.
Again just like all of the movies we watched for this semester, I never really looked into any of the films before watching them. In this case, I was really surprised to find out that Pontypool was actually a zombie film. I’ve come to associate zombie films as mindless movies where it doesn’t really take a lot of analyzing to enjoy. Zombie movies tend to be action-packed, heart-pumping, and sometimes even comedic such as popular movies of the genre like Zombieland or Shaun of the Dead. I’m not saying these aren’t great movies, because they are in their own way, but that’s what we’ve come to expect from the sub-genre. Pontypool however had a very interesting way of terrifying the audience. Rather than showing us senseless violence happening on screen, they cleverly used audio to tell us the horrors happening inside their world. Obviously the film didn’t really have a big budget. Most if not all the scenes were shot inside the radio station. So it was actually genius using radio chat to listen in on horror-narratives, baby-noises coming from full grown men, and screaming crowds, because it was still very effective and appropriate considering the setting.
The most amazing thing about the movie however is the zombie virus itself. Rather than being transferred through zombie bites, one can become a zombie simply through the use of specific words in the English language. This was what differentiated the film for me from all the other zombie films out there. It was for one, unique, and at the same time cleverly ironic because the main character Grant was a radio host who potentially could have broadcasted these infected words to his listeners. Literally, they had to either shut up or die.
According to Hawkins, for a film to be considered high art or low art is really up to its audience. It tells us that we can’t really trust a movie’s ratings, reviews, how much it profited, or even the people who made it, to tell us if it would be high art. It’s really all relative to how we understand the plot of the movie. For me, what makes a movie high art is that it will be able to stand up against the test of time. As society grows and its culture changes, the way we perceived a movie 10 years ago may not be the same as we would perceive it now. Looking back, if we watched Resident Evil now, we probably wouldn’t feel the same rush of enjoyment since we’ve grown tired of seeing just mindless violence with no real interesting plot lines. Then again something like Pontypool which I would guess wasn’t really a blockbusting success when released, would probably stand out in the future because of its interesting take on the zombie virus. Which is why, even if a person doesn’t like zombie movies, I wouldn’t hesitate at all to recommend this film to him. It forces the viewer to actually use his/her head and not just to mindlessly watch. It makes you wonder why exactly repeating words is the cure to the virus. It makes you analyze the ending sequence so hard that in the end leaves you confused, frustrated after minutes of trying to interpret why the hell was it in black and white? Why did he suddenly change his name to Johny? Wait is this even the right film? It makes zero senseeeee and for a moment I just forgot what I was doing…..was I just writing an article? #anoraw? #cured #highart #hashtag
Joan Hawkins, “Sleaze Mania, Euro-trash, and High Art: The Place of European Art Films in American Low Culture.” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002).