Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pontypool (2008)

A Canadian horror movie sportinng a self-conscious wordiness worthy of Miguel Ángel Asturias. Indeed its opening immediately reminded me of those first few lines of El Señor Presidente.

"Alumbra, lumbre de alumbre, Luzbel de piedralumbre!"

The premise is straightforward, but this genre-friendly set-up is soon being stressed by the script which starts to yank it in all kinds of strange directions.

A late night talkshow DJ and his female producer and assistant are in their basement studio in the provincial town of Pontypool, as news starts to break of crowds of people chanting odd phrases while they tuck into their fellow citizens.

It soon becomes clear (well, not really) that the vector for this particular zombie virus is the English language, transmitted via terms of endearment and other trigger words like "kill", and that French-Canadian troops are acting over-keenly in suppressing this 'uprising'.

No simple George Romero zombie allegory this, Pontypool seems to have something profound to say, but the babble is fast and the action is slow. (Too much jaw and not enough gore, quips The Mirror's critic Dave Edwards.) Yet even as it descended into incoherence we remained somehow gripped, as if sensing that these dips into and out of sense where in fact core to the very sense of the movie, even if we didn't quite get it.

Grade: B+

PS: I suspected that director Bruce McDonald must have fed something subliminally scary into the soundtrack supporting the opening sequence, because both cat and dog sat up here and looked around anxiously for a few moments during it.

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