Describing a Zombie Apocalypse

(Warning: Spoilers ahead)

After watching the movie, my mind was just spinning. I found it difficult to make sense of what just happened. In a way, I was as confused as I was when the movie began. After being able to discuss it in class however, I felt like my understanding of the movie broadened and this made me appreciate it more. With this, Pontypool is actually one of the movies which I would want to watch again sometime after class. As compared to the other horror movies we watched, I feel like this one is something which would be much better if the audience enters into the movie with an idea of what to expect so as to not get too lost while watching. This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the movie. On the contrary, I very much did. I thought that it was a very smart and well-crafted movie with interesting characters and an even more interesting concept.

Pontypool (2008) is a Canadian horror film by Bruce McDonald. In summary, it tells the story of a zombie-like epidemic from the point of view of people stuck inside a radio station. The film starts with Grant Mazzy, the protagonist, driving to work. On his way, his car gets blocked by a woman spouting gibberish who suddenly disappears into the snow. In a way, this served as the Sighting in the film. Grant keeps this in mind and, when he gets to work, he talks to his boss Sydney about it and then actually brings it up in his radio show, asking for advice on what his listeners would do in that situation. Things take a turn for the worse however, in the thickening or, when they start to receive details about attacks outside the office of Dr. Mendez. This is especially interesting as they hear about it through Ken, their “voice in the sky.” It is only when one of their own, Laurel-Ann actually gets infected however that the revel occurs. They finally realize that the situation is real and this causes panic and their instinct to survive kicks in. This is furthered by the appearance of De. Mendez who, aside from providing a bit of comic relief, explains everything that is happening, albeit in a very hard to understand way. In short, he reveals that the zombie virus is spread through words or specifically, through certain English words and actually understanding them. In a very tense moment then, somehow Grant finds that the cure is to jumble up the meanings of words to make the language somewhat impossible to understand and therefore removing the danger of the pathogen. With that happening, it seems like the movie will end well and on a happy note. However, it is in the aftermath of the movie that things get interesting. Instead of the cure working, the town of Pontypool was bombed by the army and the screen cut to black which left the ending somewhat open to interpretation. It was what happened after that completely confused me though. In a post-credits seen, Grant and Sydney are seen together with new names and talking about a plan to get out. To me, it was not clear what the writers were trying to say and this is why the aftermath of the movie actually served as the main talking point of it. The movie was set-up in such a way that it made the audience think after leaving the theater, something which is somewhat unusual for the horror genre. In terms of the moves the writers took though, we can see how the movie can be seen as horror.

In Joan Hawkins’ article entitled Sleaze Mania, Euro-trash, and High Art: The Place of European Art Films in American Low Culture, she says that horror is a genre which is typically related to low art. Pontypool however, aims to be more than this. By using the concept of language as a monster and bringing the movie to a more intellectual level, it actually is able to somewhat go into the barrier of high-art, as perceived by the audience. This is especially since, for most of the movie, the horror is mostly explained and not seen which makes the viewers’ imagination do the work. Hawkins says that it really is up to the audience to decide whether a film is high or low art. With Pontypool, I am comfortable seeing it as high art which is in a way a testament to what the filmmakers tried to do. By taking a concept relating to low art and mindless violence and finding a way to twist it to make viewers actually think about it, they successfully found a way to change the mold of what a horror film can be.

References:

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).

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