Pontypool: Interestingly Unique

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Sir mentioned in class that Com majors will either love the movie or hate it. I loved it.

Although there were parts of the film that I felt were unnecessary, I really liked how different and creative it was a horror film. I didn’t quite get why they made use of zombies in the films but I think it would have had a creepier and exciting vibe if the words were transmitting cannibalism instead of Zombies. I find the zombies in the film deader than they already are so I think I little more aggression on their part would have made this film a lot popular. I really liked Grant Mazzy’s character because he was such a breath of fresh air compared to the usual damsel-in-distress or psychotic lead that I would usually find in horror films. He was funny, smart, and strategic. He was the one who cracked the code, along with his supposed love interest in the film.

I like the whole concept of semiotics being used as the  “monster” in the film, mainly because you know that a lot of thought has been put into the curation of the concept. I’m not entirely sure if the film was based from a novel, but it would probably be an interesting read if this is so. What I find disappointing is that although the concept it original, the film’s plot could have been executed better. There were a lot of characters that I would did not appeal to me, like the performers they invited to the show. I’m not too sure if this was for comical relief or not? But I don’t think it was very helpful for the story. The doctor could have been of better use to the plot as well but he was just an annoyance in the film in my opinion. I don’t think his purpose should have stopped at telling them the source of the contagion in the film. I really appreciate the part where they were trying to locate which words are infected and which are not because although it is a very abstract concept, it still provided the same feeling of suspense. Neither the audience nor the character knew which words were indeed afflicted, making the viewers feel nervous for the characters in the film. I find particularly annoying the character of Sydney. I don’t think anyone in the state of panic and fear of her own life would willingly get drunk for the sake of “running away” from the issue. She put her life and Mazzy’s at risk and it just had no reason behind it whatsoever, coming from a film with a concept that seems to be well-calculated. I think that the story itself could have been enriched if there was more depth in characters aside from Mazzy.

While I was searching for Pontypool online, I was a bit taken by surprise by how Pontypool was an actual town and not just some made up place for the film. The very name of the town sounds like wordplay.

I think that the film was successful in making the concept something the audience would be interested in but not too successful in marking it as horror. The zombies in the movie seemed distant to its viewers because they did not seem to pose a real threat to the characters, or at least with how they were portrayed. I do not like how the doctor conveniently was able to enter the radio station in his efforts to escape the zombies. There was no challenge to seek the radio jocks in order to make a public announcement regarding this epidemic. Laurel-ann’s character was very engaging and I think that gave me a lot of expectations to the kind of zombies we would be faced with once the doors of the station have collapsed.

But ultimately, I think Pontypool is a good break from the usual horror flicks I end up watching and I only hope that I am able to stumble upon similar creations in the future that are maybe developed further.

Words as Weapons

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It’s 2017 – the world prides itself in the advancements of technology and the proliferation of the use of the Internet, especially in the popularity of social media networks. Given that the world is seemingly getting smaller because of these advancements, you’d think that communication around the world would be easier. But that isn’t the case; though pretty much the world values these things with very high regard, the use of communication is now being weaponized by governments, politicians, and even regular citizens (read: ‘netizens’) to spread misinformation, fake news and, for a lack of better word, to troll well-meaning Internet and social media users.

These issues did not exist in the year 2009, when Pontypool (dir. Bruce McDonald) was first released, but somehow, watching the film in 2017 made it all so relevant to today’s current political and social landscapes. In the film, the very [English] language that people use everyday becomes a virus, making people turn into zombie-like creatures, and that on its own is a pretty great metaphor for what is happening today. The whole film revolves around words, language and the semiotics that are applied to them. It may get very confusing, even absurd, for many viewers including myself, but the power of words that is portrayed in the film is a very powerful statement with regards to what is happening around us.

Personally, I did not really enjoy the experience of seeing the film as a whole. It had moments that piqued my interest, with some even making me amused or some giving relief from the tension with the funny tone, but everything else felt a bit jarring. It might be the point for director Bruce McDonald to have made it feel that way – that the audience must at some point feel what the characters are feeling as they are stuck in the radio recording booth. But regardless, it wasn’t something that was easy to engage or be compelled with. It may also be so because the characters themselves weren’t as relatable (compared to other horror film characters), all the more that they would not really be people that you would root for to survive the apocalypse. Maybe it just so happened that they were stuck there because of circumstance, and the audience is just asked to play and tag along with it.

Regardless, the set-up of them only being stuck in the radio booth for majority (if not the whole) film was rather interesting, as it provides a different perspective from any other zombie apocalypse film. Furthermore, the set-up somehow acts as the on-the-ground view on an apocalypse, and shows the desperation of characters to get out of their situation.  This also acts as the starting point of the main narrative of language being the virus in the first place, highlighted even more because they are at a place where the use of words matter and are more important than they are as it is broadcasted to a wide range of people.

Again, I commend the timeliness of the film, because it brings what is confusing and a plot that is hard to invest on to a higher level, and with deeper meaning. This is exactly the point of Hawkins in her article entitled Sleaze Mania, Euro-trash, and High Art: The Place of European Art Films in American Low Culture. In this article, she talks about paracinema, and how the different films featured here have changed in meaning and connotation throughout the years, from being seen as low-brow/low art to that which is high art. Hawkins talks about some horror films, such as Freaks, which were originally deemed as a trashy or useless film, but later on regarded as an art film. In a similar fashion, this could be applied to Pontypool. The initial release of Pontypool in 2009 did not receive favorable reviews from the audiences, but now that I think about it in the current context of the world in 2017, it makes so much more sense and can actually be applied to society. Its in these changing times, the context, wherein the meaning of the text (pretty much like semiotics, as proposed by Roland Barthes) also changes and is made much more meaningful. As Hawkins says, “viewing/reading the films themselves—even the trashiest films—demands a set of sophisticated strategies which, Sconce argues, are remarkably similar to the strategies employed by the cultural elite.” There exists to be a small delineation between the high art and low art, and that gives way for texts, such as films, to change in their meaning through time.

Pontypool is a prime example of how cinema and film is made profound through the passage of time, in this case, seemingly faster than other films. But more thant that, it serves as a good representation and metaphor of today’s issues in terms of politics and the use of words as weapons, especially for the people who do not comprehend or utilize it as well as others.

Reference:

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

Pontypool: Low art baby

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Synopsis

Whe Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie), a radio superstar back in the day, goes to work in a basement of a radio station building. Looking like another normal day of work until Mazzy hears that there’s a ‘riot’ outside and large groups of people are moving violently, he barricades himself in the radio booth and tries to warn his listeners about this.

Initial Reactions

I would like to say upfront that I like the idea of the movie. The director Bruce McDonald had a brilliant mind of creating a plot that moves only in one setting. I said I like the idea, but not the movie entirely. I felt like if the movie was shot differently, a slightly darker ambience, more/better eerie music, then it would have been way better. Not saying that I don’t like it, it’s a so-so horror film for me. The genius of the writer of the script makes up for it, but I guess it will find appeal in its intellectuality but for me, it’s really pretty basic. Virus transmitted through language. Destroy how you understand the language, you destroy the virus. Nothing really too complex and ‘high art’ about it. But then again, it’s a different breed of horror where it’s all talk and not much action. The thrill it gives you is an imagined fear, the kind of fear you have when you’re stuck in the house and a hurricane is devastating the whole country and all you get to here is this radio jock exaggerating shit on DZMM or whatever.

I also like the idea of language being a carrier of a virus– I have recently learned about ideology and the niceties of it, I think that it relates really well with that. In which the English language took with it an air of the imperialist. It turns into a virus that disrupts the thinking of the masses. Let’s make my assertion more clear by giving an example: in a job interview, two persons look exactly alike, have the same accolade, same degree, same grades, and so on, and so on. One speaks perfect English like he even sounds like Morgan Freeman when you close your eyes. The other one speaks in Tagalog, the street crass way tagalog. Who would you think is more intelligible or who is more qualified for the job? Exactly.

Now I got my feelings out of the way, a little analysis of the film based on the reading: Sleaze-Mania, Euro-trash and High Art: The Place of European Art Films in American Low Cinema by John Hawkins. Hawkins asserted that there is high art and low art, and the film is either high or low depends on the audience and how they understood the plot. I believe this is kind of true, take for example Cloud Atlas a 171 minute film that feels like 4 hours, with 6 different plots, 6 different time lines, 6 different protagonists that never intersect, and so on, and so on. This is definitely high art. Why? Because no one understood what the fuck the movie was about. Exactly what Hawkins was asserting is that the complexity of the plot and how the audience reacts to it is what determines if it is high art or low art. Pontypool for example has some pretty cool complex plot, however, I understood it and I find it basic– I’m sorry, I’m not sorry. I still find Pontypool as a normal zombie film, thus low art.

I believe the people who reported Pontypool would disagree with me, but nonetheless, no matter how complex the plot is, if it is possessed and circumscribable to the mind of the audience or if they find it too easy, it’s still going to be low art.

I need to burn off 100 words more so I’m going to discuss the post credit scenes of Pontypool. The more they make sense the more the virus is going to take effect. The purpose of the antithetical post credit scene is one to confuse people another jab to making it to high art, while obviously what they were doing is really is simple to not make sense. Notice in the end of the post credit scene she used the word ‘baby’ a form of endearment, it has been established several times in the movie that forms of endearment are also carriers of the virus, so it shows us that the ‘play’ they are putting up in the end is still a way to ‘get out of here’– and the threat of the virus is still out there.

 

 

Pontypool: What’s happening?

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“Huh?”

That was how I felt throughout the movie, Pontypool. Half of the time, I did not understand what was going on. It felt as if a bunch of stuff were happening and were said that did not feel coherent with the genre of horror. The idea that a word can infect a person into becoming a zombie felt so impossible that it felt silly! After watching the film, I was really debating whether what I really watched was a horror film. But after a bit of deliberation, I realized that Pontypool was a horror film, a unique one as a matter fact. It felt as if it was a commentary on horror films.

Pontypool did follow the usual techniques of horror film. There were a bunch of moments of suspense and there was the usual “‘monster”. What makes Pontypool so unique , however, is their take on fear. Instead of using the usual fears of sicknesses and viral viruses, they portrayed words of affection as something to be feared. They were bringing into light a fear that a lot of people may have. Not a fear of affection exactly, but a fear of what it may result to. There are a number of people who are appalled by affection, they stay away from it like a virus. And this, for me, was presented into the film. It showed that fear integral to any horror film, whatever fear it may be, it can be utilized to scare the audience.

Also, another thing brought up by Pontypool is the need for a cure or a wise man in every horror film. They did it so blatantly that a doctor just comes out of nowhere and leaves as abruptly.  This doctor was the “wise man” which helps them figure out what the cure is or what was causing the horror experience. Through this, the film comments on how there is a need to understand what exactly is going on. It comments on how, even if it’s impossibly convenient for the characters, horror films always tend to bring an “Ahhh that’s what’s happening” moment.

In the end, Pontypool was able to express what horror films are really about. They did it in its most crass way possible. They presented a fear, a monster, and a possible solution/cure. Either way, Pontypool still leaves us wondering just like any other horror film. Even if it’s not the usual horror film, it is still enjoyable to watch. It still plays on the curiosity and fear factor. Pontypool would be the film you’d like to watch to somehow dissect a horror film.

Ponty, What, Really, Pool?

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Pontypool is a 2008 horror film directed by Bruce McDonald. The film is about the propagation of a virus through speaking the English language. The main protagonist of the film are Grant Mazzy and his station manager Sydney Briar. Definitely, this film is a very confusing. It does not help that the story was quite juggled was well.

The events of the movie take place in a town called Pontypool located in Ontario. The main protagonist is a radio announcer named Grant Mazzy that works together with Sydney and Laurel-Ann. In a shocking turn of events, Grant receives a call from his field respondent about a possible riot in the office of a man named Dr. Mendez. As time when by, Grant receives more updates from Ken relating about the riot. Ken describes what seems to be an outbreak and people fighting each other. But before finishing the report, Ken was cut off by a French transmission instructing them to stay indoors along with other requests such as not using the English language.

In a state of panic, they try to leave, but is unable to due to a horde of people attacking their exit. When they retreated, Laurel-Ann begins to utter “missing” repeatedly when suddenly the doctor comes in. Grant along Sydney and Dr. Mendez lock themselves in the radio booth as they watch Laurel-Ann unravel. Mendez explains that there seems to be a virus outbreak and somehow it infected the English language thus explaining the French transmission. The group tries to avoid using the language and in the end, Grant was able to find a possible cure. In an effort to save Sydney, he confused her with the word “kill”. He then along her made their way to the booth and repeated words that confused the listeners until the screen turned black.

In Joan Hawkins “Sleaze mania, Euro-trash, and high art”, she mentions that, “connoisseurs of trash cinema are always on the lookout for movies that are so awful they’re good. But they also consume films which are recognized by “legitimate” film culture as masterpieces.” She then explains how paracinematic catalogues often tag art films as films which require a different reading. They require a certain reading strategy, which are often only learned through watching the movies of the genre. Such films needs deeper understanding and needs rewatching to better judge the movie. What separates European movies to Hollywood movies is being the mainstream and the other. Most often than not, non-Hollywood films are thrown aside due to the lack of publicity and the generalizations of people assuming it would be horrible.

The low and high art culture taps ultimately is decided by the audience. A high art film of the genre is considered to be the mainstream movies, that follow a certain formula and having a structured plot line. On the other hand, low art movies make it painstakingly hard for the viewers to understand the plot due to utter disregard of norms usually followed in creating a film.

This is one of the most confusing movies I have watched in EVER! The plot is quite queer, for a zombie apocalypse to start from speaking the English language. The cause of the breakout of the virus very weird in itself. In a usual zombie apocalypse movie, we are thrown into the action. Even in the TV series The Walking Dead, the plot almost always includes a zombie hoard attacking them. However in Pontypool, we never really saw the group really engaging with the antagonists. They just stayed within the radio station the whole time never really having any idea of the things that have transpired. We are made only to imagine and visualize Ken’s reports of what was happening outside. The film fails to provide the viewers with a reasonable explanation of how and what is happening. When watching the film, I was quite lost and could not keep up, which made me disinterested. However, I could certainly say that the movie is a form of high-art that something we are not used to. The movie was more a like puzzle, it gave us bits and pieces of information vital in solving the mystery before really providing it. Even the ending when Grant just spat out different words just to confuse the herd of zombies does not make sense. But maybe that was the point, Pontypool as movie does not do a lot for its viewer. Personally, I did not like the movie. Unlike Evil Dead which presented gut-wrenching twists and turns, this film is pale in contrast.

Pontypoolooza

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The film Pontypool directed by Bruce McDonald was one that I liked and found something worth it to watch. I found it something unique and I have some insights on how I perceive it. The movie is of a Canadian nature and I see this as something different from the American films produced. When you watch a horror movie, it would usually be in a haunted house or a forest, something in that regard. However, this movie was connected to a radio station, which is really far from an ordinary one. The scenes in the film with the radio station made me think about what was happening and how it shows a different perspective to it. The role of the radio station is also there to show its value and how it will help the main character. The scenes were exciting especially with the main character Grant. In the movie there is a scene when Grant opened a particular door. Grant’s goal was to be able to go outside however he remained. I wanted him to go out and see what would happen.

Now I would like to talk about how Grant operates as a part of the radio show. Grant is quite funny and a dose of comedy is inserted into a horror film. He would make fun of a story told by a person who listens to the radio show. After this happening, something real happens as Ken Loney contacts him and tells him that a similar event is happening outside. An event that is quite unusual. Other stories that occur during the film that showcase how some comedy is presented when the main character Grant makes fun of some singers who went to the radio station. When they put in some comedy in the film, I found it something unique and new. I liked how they blended it in some of the nasty parts that were happening. The violence and the scary parts were balanced out by the comic relief. I also liked how the actors executed the scene when Ken died. Sydney a member of the crew projected to the viewers that she was really sad about Ken’s death. However, this was not the case for Ken as it was different and he was even a pedophile.

This movie was quite different from other types of horror movies aside from the comedy aspect. Most horror movies that I watch contain monstrous creatures that will haunt you. There are also the types that have out of this world forces such as ghosts, exorcists and demons. This is really different wherein the horror was in the words that the people were speaking. The virus is quite fatal because if you hear the words uttered by somebody infected, then you can possible die. In the film numerous characters die such as Sydney and Laurel-Ann who are part of the radio’s crew. The way to fight the horror was all about being silent. Since the problem being presented is related to speaking and the utterance of various words, the way to combat this is to close your mouth and don’t say anything at all.

In the end, watching the movie was worthwhile because of the factors that I have mentioned. The setting of a radio station is very new for me for a horror film so I appreciate its creativity. I also liked how the actors executed the various scenes in the film. These scenes in the film were quite difficult and I saw that they were really quality performers. The screenplay was also impressive to add to the great acting. It was really different from other movies and the blending of various films made it a wonderful experience to watch.

Pontypool

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To be honest, I fell asleep at the first part of Pontypool. I didn’t understand what was going on in the movie until my friend started shaking my arm out of excitement and I woke up. Then, I found Pontypool to be a very exciting movie.

It showed a unique twist to the typical zombie movie. It gave the idea of language being contagious. This becomes to be a little philosophical because language is not something you can hold or you can touch so it cannot be a host for disease. Then again, if you think about things being contagious, you not only think about diseases, but you can think about yawning. They say that yawning is contagious, but nobody really understands why. This plot of the movie is by far the best zombie plot yet because it presents a legitimate threat that may not be cured. It’s not a disease you can cultivate in the lab. You really have to study language to understand how to cure it. To add to that, the movie mentions that the only way you can cure this is if you change the meaning of things or if you speak in a different language. It was exciting when they the characters started speaking French, but then I realized that they’re from Canada.

Pontypool is a horror movie, but it tries to bring out more from horror. It tries to add art in the mix. Language is an art form that a lot of people take advantage of. They take advantage of it in a sense that they don’t try to hone and to practice it by reading books or practicing different languages. They also take advantage of it in a sense that they intentionally use the wrong grammar to sound better. One of the things that Pontypool implies is perhaps when they time comes that language is the only thing that can save you, how are you going to act knowing that you don’t actually know a lot about it?

The characters in the movie also helped in making it interesting. Mazzy was showed to have an amazingly manly and macho voice. He was firm and he did not like to follow instructions. Even if Mazzy was like this, he also had his vulnerable moments. The other character was Dr. Mendez who made the movie a little bit comedic. He was this goofy doctor whom no one thought to actually believe. When he started speaking in his native language, Mazzy the main characters started to think he was getting infected with the language disease when in fact he was able to find out the cure. Dr. Mendez also saved them from the attacking hoard. It was unclear whatever happened to Dr. Mendez.

All these aspects of Pontypool make the movie out to be Para cinematic. It put together a whole lot of aspects that may or may not have gone together, but it put them together anyway. For example, the movie being a zombie movie but they used language the disease. This goes way beyond out of the ordinary and some people may not appreciate this because it’s not the conventional way of making a zombie movie. It makes things strange the way it puts all those ingredients together, but it still ended up being a good movie. Also, the aspect of the movie changing the meaning of the words adds to its being Para cinematic because that’s really what the movie is trying to do – change the meaning of what a zombie movie means. It’s okay to have frustrated reactions about it especially in the after credits scene because not everyone is going to like something unconventional