Pontypool was directed by Bruce McDonald and was based on Pontypool Changes Everything, a novel by Tony Burgess.
I found the film to be boring at first because of how it was paced so slowly. I found it hard to resonate or feel for the characters because they were so monotonous. But then I realized that this is what made it so realistic – because that was what you’d expect from a radio show in real life anyway. It was just another normal day for Grant Mazzy, Sydney and Laurel-Ann so there shouldn’t be much that is expected from them. The film was confusing because the audience doesn’t really know what is going on right away. We aren’t introduced to the main problem in one go – we learn about the virus not until the latter half of the film and it is introduced part by part.
The film was very unconventional. It isn’t your normal zombie movie where victims try to fight for their lives by killing the monster. In Pontypool, we see an intelligent way of eliminating the zombies. This is by speaking a language other than the English language or not speaking at all. The virus that was spreading throughout the town of Pontypool wasn’t your regular zombie virus. This virus was actually the English language. And if this happened in real life, then we would all be screwed. What is normally regarded as a means of communicating with other people is seen as a form of destruction. Brilliant.
At first, I didn’t like the film because of how slow paced it was. I found it hard to be immersed in the story because there wasn’t anything interesting happening for a long time. But when the cause of the virus was revealed, I started to get hooked into the narrative. It was definitely intelligently made. Props to the people who made the film because it is not your ordinary horror movie. Pontypool was a refreshing take on the zombie genre.
The characters were also quite interesting. Stephen McHattie’s performance as the radio announcer, Grant Mazzy is also commendable. His voice really is perfect for radio. For the most part of the film, he was the radio announcer who wanted things to go his way. He refused to listen to his station manager, Sydney, who thought of him as a pain in the neck to work with. Eventually though, we see that Grant has his vulnerable moments. Dr. Mendez’s character was amusing as well. He was literally brought into the narrative when he crashed into one of the windows of the radio station and he arrived at the most convenient time. He is the character that you love to hate but I really saddened me when he sacrificed himself to save Grant and Sydney near the end.
Pontypool, according to Joan Hawkins’ Sleazemania article can therefore be considered as high art. A film can be classified under high or low art depending on the audiences’ perception of the movie. There isn’t a governing body who decides if a film is high art or low art. The audiences’ understanding of the movie’s plot is considered the basis in judging this. Films as low art are those that are straight to the point while films as high art make the viewer wonder what is happening in the movie. Metaphorical and philosophical symbols abound in high art films. This is seen in Pontypool because it requires a high level of understanding in order for the viewer to grasp what the movie is all about. The virus wasn’t explained in detail and it was just indirectly strewn into the dialogue, leaving it up to how the audience analyzed and understood its concept. In the Sleazemania reading, paracinematic films are also explained. Paracinematic films work like a stew, where random elements are just mixed together. It also mentioned how these films are not meant to be seamless. These films also do not have to bridge high and low art elements. However, Pontypool was able to successfully bridge these two elements together.
In talking about high and low art, we get to see how different our views are depending on our cultural contexts. All of us have our own opinions and backgrounds. Some scenes affecting American viewers could be viewed differently by British viewers. It acknowledges that each person has their own perception about a movie and there isn’t a single right way to analyze a film because ultimately, our own cultures shape our ability to perceive what we watch.
Source: 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).