Pontypool (2008)
July 9, 2014 11:55 AM - Subscribe

Shock jock Grant Mazzy has been kicked-off the airwaves and now works at a small-town morning show. Another mundane day on the job quickly turns deadly when reports begin to pile in of people developing strange speech patterns and committing brutal acts of violence.
posted by mathowie (47 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
I love this weirdo movie to bits. And no Pontypool thread is complete without the opening monologue, so let's get that out of the way. Pontypool

Pontypool. PONtypool. PontyPOOL. pontypool pontypool.
posted by figurant at 12:25 PM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Okay, here is the metaphor that I wound up taking away from this movie, and I refer to it in my own head every day.

The film is about a certain pattern of language that gets caught in our head, short-circuiting our ability to be rational, short circuiting our ability to interact in a reasoned manner with the people around us, attempts to undermine their ability to reason, and eventually devours us.

I've noticed a lot of people in my life have certain vocal tics that demonstrate the moment they have given up thinking about things. "It is what it is" is a big one for one person. If I am critical of something another friend doesn't care about, she will inevitably say "what do you expect?", which isn't actually an invitation for me to discuss what I expect, but rather that she doesn't want to talk about it anymore because I shouldn't expect better. She also tends to use phrases like "hipster," "pretentious" and "politically correct" to wave away anything she doesn't like but doesn't want to think about -- when pressed, she'll admit that those aren't actually very good words for what she is describing, but, then, she doesn't really think that she needs to find good words, because the subject isn't really worth considering. I had a friend who said "fair enough" when done with discussing things.

And, you know, fair enough. We don't have to think about anything that we don't want to, and I try not to be obnoxious by pressing people to continue discussing or considering anything they don't want to -- I want to be a conversationalist, not a boor.

But, as a result of Pontypool, I have started really noticing these tics, which I call Pontypool Moments -- the moment when a single word or phrase signified the end of intellectual consideration. And I have tried to recognize those phrases in myself, although, in my case, I think I rely on "Oh well" a lot and little else. And sometimes you are done thinking about something, because you've worried it in your head long enough and continuing to think on it won't get you anything else.

But, then, there are a lot of things where I have developed strong opinions based on no real information, and I notice in a lot of people that these are marked by Pontypool moments. Mocking phrases that dismiss whole groups of people tend to be pretty common -- hipster would be a great example of this. Phrases that dismiss entire areas of thought -- pearl clutching, politically correct, invisible superhero in the sky.

They generally don't indicate a complex collection of ideas that have been grouped together into a convenient phrase, which is often how language works, by providing us with a shorthand for something so complex that it would take sentences, instead of a single word, to describe it. No, instead they represent the dismissal of ideas, as though considering the ideas is beneath us and the whole of it should be dispensed with altogether.

I hear a lot of Pontypool moments in my day to day life, and see a lot of them online, and, thanks to this movie, I now get a mental image of someone chewing off their own lips and vomiting blood into someone else's mouth when they do it.

And that seems like the right image.
posted by maxsparber at 12:25 PM on July 9, 2014 [61 favorites]


Do you think the movie intends us to take the opening monologue as the initial point of infection?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:25 PM on July 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


First off, I'll say this is an incredibly effectively written movie.It takes place almost entirely in one location and we see no more than a dozen or so baddies, and yet it manages to legitimately build suspense and create the feeling of being under siege. Also huge points for the actors. I have seen a lot of Canadian TV and movies over the years, and one thing that sorta gets to me is how often they contain "That Guy"; i.e the few recognizable Canadian actors no one knows the name of that seem to wind up in everything despite not always being great. I think I spotted 2 of those in this entire thing, and they were members of Lawrence and the Arabians. The actors they got were great. "Grant Mazzy" was almost unrecognizable as anyone other than possibly Don Imus, and was totally believable with his great radio voice. I also really liked (and did not recognize) "Sydney" and "Laurel-Ann". So yeah I'm really kinda proud to see a Canadian film pull it off so well when we have so many also-rans and near-misses.

I've seen it a few times now, most recently last night. I will say that knowing what the problem was in advance let me appreciate the whole setup so much more. But the first few times I watched it, the concept of a virus that affects only the English language sorta took me right out of it. And the whole "cure" he found seemed implausible and sorta cheap to me, too. That much hasn't changed, but this most recent re-watch sorta shows that's not enough to spoil a pretty great little movie. It's maybe only the last 20 minutes that are at all unsatisfying to me, but that's hardly a rare thing in this genre and they pull off the lead-up so well that any problem I have accepting the overall premise is sort of tangential to enjoying the film.
posted by Hoopo at 12:29 PM on July 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


So many thoughts about this.

I think I'd group this with The Ring as an "Information/Communication Is Dangerous" film, a subgenre particularly incompatible with my worldview as a librarian. So maybe I should stop there. But.

I wouldn't call it an example of an idiot plot, but the characters--particularly the doctor--seemed slow to figure out what was going on and I found that frustrating. (To be fair, though, I got to read the back of the DVD case and he didn't. Maybe in his shoes I would have been the character slow to figure things out. Still, even knowing what he did and no more--he'd warned against using the radio--he should have prevented anyone from using cell phones.)

The doctor is also an example of the "person of color in a horror movie/show/book is doomed" cliché, which gets more than a little tiresome. I'll give it a partial pass since all the named characters (except maybe Honey) seem to have died, but I was hoping for more. I'm always hoping for more.

Given that Honey is the name of the cat and we're admonished to avoid particular phrases including terms of endearment, I'd say that the opening monologue is the initial point of infection--at least for us, if not for Mazzy and/or Sidney and/or Laurel-Ann. Who could see the audio meters at that point? There's a visual distortion on the screen right around the time he's talking about perceptual distortions.

What was up with that post-credits scene? I've only seen the film once. Does that scene make sense on rewatch?
posted by johnofjack at 12:40 PM on July 9, 2014


Also did anyone else catch Grant calling the BBC "our affiliate"?
posted by Hoopo at 12:42 PM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Stephen McHatty is my favorite Canadian horror movie actor. I love when he pops up.
posted by garlic at 2:11 PM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


The cast do a great job in this, but the ending kind of falls apart for me (though I really like the rest of the movie). The doctor character introduces kind of a rapid tonal shift into comedy that doesn't work very well for me. I especially didn't like the blase way he talks about the spunky assistant producer vet having turned into a zombie, since I was pretty attached to that character by that point.

I still find the post-credits scene to be mostly incomprehensible on my second watching, I guess it's like an idealized version of them or something? It seems more like a lark tacked on at the end than something that's supposed to be part of the movie itself.
posted by whir at 2:52 PM on July 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


I have an idea from somewhere, maybe the commentary on the DVD, that the post-credits sequence is the new perceptual reality they've created for themselves by radically altering their vocabulary to become immune. If "Kiss" is "Kill", the coda is entirely spoken in that remapped language. But then again I may have dreamed it.
posted by figurant at 3:16 PM on July 9, 2014


The WTFery of the coda is mighty high, yeah.

I think I might have gone back and watched it withbannidea like whir's that it was their new reality, but I seem to remember being disappointed because that notion didn't work to my eyes.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:25 PM on July 9, 2014


People really hated the doctor, eh? I don't know, he didn't leave much of an impression on me. I certainly don't think he was meant to be likeable--he was popping pills all throughout his time on screen and was introduced earlier as having written a lot of "unnecessary prescriptions". So he's a fraud and possibly an addict, and very likely under the influence of prescription drugs when we see him. As for being slow to pick up on what was going on, I feel like what was happening was so far-fetched that most doctors would not believe it so that didn't bother me much. Especially if he's some small-town GP or something, I don't know if we can expect him to have pieced together the workings of some completely new kind of disease based on a morning of running from zombies.
posted by Hoopo at 3:26 PM on July 9, 2014


Hoopo, by the time the doctor was onscreen I'd totally forgotten what they said earlier about his prescriptions. And for some reason I didn't even notice his pill-poppings onscreen; perhaps I've been inured to it by this week's watching of Broadchurch.
posted by johnofjack at 3:44 PM on July 9, 2014


I didn't mind the doctor much, but I did think the description of him during the riot at his office sounded much more like exposition than a real radio news story. The "unnecessary prescriptions" thing sounded phony.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:20 PM on July 9, 2014


I read something similar about the coda at some point after I first watched this movie a few years ago and was totally baffled by the ending. I agree with DOT that it doesn't really track, but I can believe it's what the filmmakers intended, regardless of whether it works.

I'll just get this out of the way: Pontypool comes with a lot of hype, and while I don't think it lives up to that hype, I understand why people dig it like they do. McHattie is fantastic in this, and could have been an Oscar contender playing the same part in a drama about a big city talk radio jock who falls from grace and ends up in the middle of nowhere, rather than a weird-ass zombie movie about a big city radio jock who et cetera, et cetera. He's most of the draw, but not all of it. For me, I'm just really impressed with the mechanics of the storytelling in the first half of the film, the way the director is able without signalling to let us know who is talking to whom, who can hear each other when, when a character is hearing a voice the other characters can't hear (and neither can we). I honestly don't even know how hard it would be to get stuff like that across on a script level, but somehow watching it the audience follows effortlessly.

I'm less enthused by the story itself, which I feel like kind of lets down its cast and creators. The language virus thing isn't not interesting, but I think I might have enjoyed more a story that let Grant talk to some fearsome intelligence, maybe; the scene where he's talking to Ken and there's the crying baby or...whatever is going there hints at some bizarre, maybe supernatural horror in an old-school radio drama way that gives the audience's imagination just enough to work into something that...well, it depends on you and what you imagine, I suppose. Anyway, it hinted at something that, to me, was a lot more interesting than just people going all zombie and shit like we've seen a million times already. Laurel Ann making the crazy dial tone noise for two minutes is scary because what the fuck is even transpiring right now; zombies coming in the window is a relief, because oh, hey, it's just some zombies. 'Sup, you guys. Pull up a chair.

I also kinda feel like the movie is tossing random political things out there that don't add up to anything. I am politically somewhere to the left of Dennis Kucinich and so am totally okay with an anti-war sentiment in general, but the nods to conflict in the Middle East just seemed to be there because ohhhhh relevant. Lawrence and the Arabians or whatever was just...what the hell was that? It all just seemed incredibly random and offensive, but I guess that was supposed to be the point, but what was the point? I have no idea.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:26 PM on July 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


I agree that Pontypool is not entirely successful. I remember, on my first viewing, being a bit underwhelmed with the film's second half. I wanted more exploration of the virus, or more supernatural horror. I wanted the story to open up and have a big climax—for our characters to venture outside, or for the French-Canadian police to arrive. I wanted the doctor to reveal more of his knowledge (mind you, I always want this from the 'expert' character in horror films and never get it, so maybe I'm wrong to want it). I did not want the film to end with romance.

However, this is the third time I've seen it, and now that my expectations are tempered I think I liked it best this time. As a horror fan, I will forgive a film many faults if it attempts something I've not seen before, or displays ingenuity within a limited budget. Pontypool does both these things admirably.

I especially enjoy the elegance of its storytelling. It's a single-location chamber piece that tells its tale through snappy dialogue and a smattering of audio communication with the outside world. The only visual glimpses we get of events outside the radio station are of Mazzy's drive to work, plus a shot or two of the exterior loudspeaker. I have a special fondness for single-location horror as it usually emphasises strong writing and performance over effects; indeed, aside from Laurel-Ann's disfigured mouth and bloody vomitus, there are almost no special effects here to speak of.

I also appreciate its unique riff on the zombie genre. Look, I bite my thumb at those who insist this isn't a zombie film. I'm not a zombie purist; I think genre policing is a great way to shut down analysis and make conversation less interesting. Those people are definitely zombies, albeit of the 'infected/rabid living human' kind. They're not 'living dead' zombies or space zombies or magical/pharmacalogical zombies, but they are people who've caught a contagion that makes them not-people any more. They are not-themselves. They are not who they are. The contagion makes them betray themselves and those they love. It makes them dangerous, violent, erratic, part of a swarm blindly destroying everything in their wake. That's a zombie. But by placing the contagion in language and thought rather in the body the film is a complete outlier and gives me hope (just as The Battery did when I saw it last year) that there are still fresh and interesting paths to be taken within the genre.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 9:01 PM on July 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


I think I'd group this with The Ring as an "Information/Communication Is Dangerous" film, a subgenre particularly incompatible with my worldview as a librarian.

I'm starting a bit of a self-imposed hiatus but was waiting on this post to make it official because, well, I am very fond of this movie and I'm not usually a big horror fan so there's not much in this little series that I'm going to want to be here for anyway. I think there's a big jump between "communication is dangerous" and "unthinking communication is dangerous". Words have power. The power that words have can and indeed does change over time, and our use of them can be what changes them, but sometimes it feels like they've been changed out from under us entirely. You can hurt people by saying the wrong words to them. You can, sometimes, reclaim the words that hurt. I'm not talking about this just in terms of the big whammy kinds of words, but smaller, less nuclear, still-sometimes-painful words like "fat" and "girl" that can go from innocent to murderous in the wrong person's mouth.

Worse, then, when you become the sort of person who does nothing but repeat the words that have been poisoned just because someone else said them, how many people can get hurt that way?

...all that being said, I still have no idea wtf to think of the coda.
posted by Sequence at 9:24 PM on July 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


First, I had never heard of Pontypool prior to a few weeks ago when the Horror Movie club started and people mentioned it, so I really had no idea what to expect. I, uh, I really liked it a lot as a kind of concept of what could be done with a movie. There was basically one set in the entire film, so I feel like the whole thing could be done as a stageplay without having to change much of anything, which is a neat idea.

I thought the concept was also great, in that zombie movies have become so cliche that I won't even watch them anymore, but this was a bit different in that you really don't see a lot of zombies. It is more the idea of something scary in the woods, or in the basement kind of thing. The doctor himself seems to be drawing a lot of ire, and I think that he was kind of a mess. At first, his clinical detachment made me think that he had something to do with the 'virus', but then it seemed unlikely, and I didn't really get why he climbed out the window. He knew he was infected and didn't want to burden them? Or he was just splitting because he thought they were screwed? The film leads me to believe the first idea is true, but it seemed that he had been continuously exposed to the virus and hadn't yet taken ill, so I thought that maybe the drugs were helping him.

The ending I thought was fine, to be honest, but I didn't like the idea that the virus only spread through the English language. Really it doesn't make sense. I mean if they said that it spread through the whatever the person's dominant language it would seem to make more sense because if your dominant language is French (or whatever), I imagine it is processed by your braaaaains in the same way that English is processed by mine. Especially since the virus apparently traveled through the word meanings, which would be different if you were speaking in a language you are less familiar with. I don't know, I am spitballing here.

Anyway, I actually am having a hard time considering this as a horror movie. Yes, there were zombies, and yes there was some blood vomiting, and sure it built some suspense, but I never really felt any fear for the safety of the characters or anything. Really, I feel like I was watching the film more clinically and dispassionately, trying to understand what was happening and why. So I kind of feel like I was the doctor character, in that we both seemed a step removed from the horrible things happening. Anyway, because I don't really think this was a horror movie, I am laying off the totally objective and infallible MULPSEAPH for this week.
posted by Literaryhero at 9:32 PM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Bruce McDonald, the director, on the coda:
That used to be end of the movie, but before the credits. And people thought, what? What? Too much confusion. There is a tradition now where you have something at the end of the credits where you have an outtake, or hint of a sequel. The existence for it is sort of buried in there, well the title of the book sort of suggests it, Pontypool Changes Everything, and one of the things I’ve always love about the notion of this, is that the virus could affect something as abstract as the English language. It can leap into reality itself, change the fabric of how reality is perceived.
I like this theory on the coda, via Stack Exchange:
There is no connection. It is a complete non-sequitur. It makes zero sense. That's the point. Get it? It's supposed to inoculate the viewer against any possible memetic infection they got from watching the film.
There was (are?) a trilogy of films planned, to be called Pontypool, Pontypool Changes, and Pontypool Changes Everything. The first sequel was supposed to film in 2010 and obviously that didn't happen. Then last year a (kinda crummy) teaser poster for Pontypool Changes was released, so apparently it hasn't completely fallen off the radar.
posted by Ian A.T. at 10:08 PM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Re: the English language. I subscribe to the interpretation that the primary vectors for infection were the posters for Mrs. French's (hah!) cat, Honey (which were all over town, and which everyone had seen). Something about terms of endearment allows the virus to bypass whatever natural defences the mind has in place, and Honey's name unfortunately qualified. The catalyst may have been Mazzy's opening radio monologue referencing Honey, although the movie doesn't concretely establish that (or anything, really, which is one of the reasons I like it so much). French speakers might be similarly susceptible, but probably not to the same collections of phonemes. Or perhaps only English speakers are fertile ground for the virus in the film's universe, under some sort of Whorfian principle.

One of these days I'm going to have to read the book to see how it stacks up.
posted by figurant at 10:40 PM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'm curious about the book too.

Another thing that struck me this time through was that the long obituary sequence, while affecting, was kind of implausible, since there was no way for the characters to know the specifics of what was happening outside of the studio. It wouldn't have bothered me as sort of an abstract, not-exactly-happening interlude, but then the characters comment on it and make it definitely part of the reality of the movie.
posted by whir at 10:54 PM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think there's a big jump between "communication is dangerous" and "unthinking communication is dangerous".

This is a useful distinction.
posted by johnofjack at 4:30 AM on July 10, 2014


Another thing that struck me this time through was that the long obituary sequence, while affecting, was kind of implausible, since there was no way for the characters to know the specifics of what was happening outside of the studio.

This drove me nuts, especially because a major source of the tension was the fact that the characters had no way of really knowing what was going on outside of some confusing, frantic phone calls and a cryptic French warning. That scene completely broke the rules established by the first half of the movie as much as if Grant suddenly starting casting spells.

One thing I liked: when Grant and Sydney are speaking bad French, Grant knows the word tuer and Sydney doesn't, substituting the English "kill" instead, which of course turns out to be her personal infection-word.
posted by theodolite at 7:06 AM on July 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Oh yeah, the French was SO bad too, but as an Anglo-Canadian it was believable. it was a nice touch
posted by Hoopo at 7:24 AM on July 10, 2014


I especially enjoy the elegance of its storytelling.

Yeah, it was a surprisingly well-made and well-acted movie, far better than I expected on those counts (Stephen McHattie was wonderful). The atmosphere in the first hour was suspenseful and claustrophobic, and the character interaction much more realistic and interesting than you usually get with this kind of thing. What kittens for breakfast said above about the mechanics of the filmmaking with regard to the practicalities of the radio show is on target; it was handled beautifully, without the need for any explanation. 5 stars for the confident storytelling, for sure.

Hoopo: It's maybe only the last 20 minutes that are at all unsatisfying to me, but that's hardly a rare thing in this genre and they pull off the lead-up so well that any problem I have accepting the overall premise is sort of tangential to enjoying the film.

Yep. I didn't mind when the doctor showed up to (slightly) Explain Everything in tiny drips, but the movie falters in the last act and doesn't follow through on its amazing, experimental premise of a zombie virus transmitted by language that actually changes reality. The filmmakers clearly like experimental touches (the obituary montage didn't fit in the narrative world but was great for reminding us the infected were real human beings) but the climax of the film felt disappointingly pedestrian after the buildup. Like kittens for breakfast, I think the story let the actors and audience down in the end.

I do think that coda gets better and better the more I think about it, but would have worked best if they'd gone a bit more subtle instead of over-the-top cartoony, like with a creepy, darker version of the world we'd just seen instead of the Looney Toons exaggeration they went with. Part of the 'wtf?' reaction is because the tone of the coda is so outrageous, and folks would have gotten the point more readily if the effects of the virus had been shown in a less ridiculous way.

Still, it's a great little movie, deserving most of its hype, and I'm at a loss as to why it's not currently available from Amazon streaming or Netflix at all (I think the original MeTa said it was on Netflix DVD but it's not; you can only Save it for later when it becomes available). Another great choice, thanks!
posted by mediareport at 7:25 AM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also did anyone else catch Grant calling the BBC "our affiliate"?

Well, I laughed. The first half of the movie is filled with little character moments like that.
posted by mediareport at 7:32 AM on July 10, 2014


I'm at a loss as to why it's not currently available from Amazon streaming or Netflix at all (I think the original MeTa said it was on Netflix DVD but it's not; you can only Save it for later when it becomes available).

It's on Netflix streaming? Maybe not DVD, but streaming at least.
posted by Sequence at 8:30 AM on July 10, 2014


I'm wondering if this movie is a type of polemic about English supplanting French in Canada.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:11 PM on July 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


(Oops, I forgot, Sequence, that I'd dropped the streaming part of my Netflix a while back, so it doesn't show me streaming options at all.)
posted by mediareport at 5:30 PM on July 10, 2014


The film is about a certain pattern of language that gets caught in our head, short-circuiting our ability to be rational, short circuiting our ability to interact in a reasoned manner with the people around us, attempts to undermine their ability to reason, and eventually devours us.

I love your metaphor, maxsparber. I'm now imagining a character-driven movie in which each person's short-circuit reflects something about them in an individual way, then slowly, increasingly builds the verbal tic into each character's dialogue as the movie goes on until it becomes clear something awful is going on with everyone. Add the virus-changes-reality element that starts tiny so folks aren't sure it isn't them misremembering what reality used to be like, then gets darker over time until they can't ignore that reality is now malleable, and....Well, damn. That'd be a great little movie.
posted by mediareport at 5:37 PM on July 10, 2014 [10 favorites]


I think there's a delicious irony in the fact that Grant Mazzy, who makes the case that his job is just to use his words to stir people up and get them agitated, ends up on the frontlines of an apocalypse brought on by language gone berserk.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:45 PM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I have read the book, which is quite good but much longer, broader and more complicated than the film. I suspect the movie didn't include the "journey" aspects of the book to specifically avoid any comparisons to 28 Days Later, because it really would've distracted from the key plot points: memetic virus transmitted via language (whether the missing cat poster or the radio broadcasts, because BOTH are true). And that information in today's world travels and mutates precisely as fast as any other airborne virus, except this one infects people who aren't even physically in the room with it. TERRIFYING.

Sort of like bad intel or propaganda, especially in an age spawned by the 24-hour news cycle.

I know book spoilers aren't allowed in the GoT FanFare discussions, but not sure if this applies to film, too.

This review gives a high level overview of the book plot without revealing the full story, for the curious. (It's only 267 pages but a dense read.)
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 7:57 PM on July 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


I really liked this movie, but (embarrassingly) didn't make the connection between the cat and the terms of endearment warning while I was watching it. I absolutely love how movies can ramp up the tension and fear without ever showing anything out of the ordinary. They're few and far between but this movie did it very well.

Also, Grant Mazzy and Sydney (Lisa Houle) are married irl.
posted by triggerfinger at 8:45 PM on July 10, 2014


Is it just a weird quirk relating to my age and alt-rock loving adolescence or does anyone else hear the name Grant Mazzy and think Grant (Lee Buffalo) Mazzy (Star)?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:48 PM on July 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Heh, sound bites.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:11 AM on July 11, 2014


I definitely think Mazzy Star.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 5:39 AM on July 11, 2014


DirtyOldTown: Is it just a weird quirk relating to my age and alt-rock loving adolescence or does anyone else hear the name Grant Mazzy and think Grant (Lee Buffalo) Mazzy (Star)?

Heh. I kept thinking that his name "went together" somehow, and I definitely thought of Mazzy Star, but I couldn't figure out why Grant went with it. I even checked to see if the guy from Mazzy Star's name was Grant or something. I bet it is from Grant Lee Buffalo, though.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:16 AM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Great idea for a horror movie, great concepts for the action and direction - but I thought the stumbles were just too frequent and disruptive (random behavior by the characters, vignettes which made no sense and broke the continuity of the movie, not enough declining of the core idea of the movie, weak resolution an ending) - that in the end the concept was wasted in its sloppy execution.
posted by Riton at 10:40 AM on July 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


I have read the book, which is quite good but much longer, broader and more complicated than the film.

See, this is why I was looking forward to the Fanfare thread for this: I had no idea it was based on a book. That makes both the weird little segues in the middle and the coda make a lot more sense in retrospect. (The obituaries part sort of reminds me of the oddball 'zombie kill of the week' segue in Zombieland, predicated on the notion that it would be a TV show rather than a movie.)

I think other people have covered why I love the movie so much: though imperfect, it's an innovative notion on a limited budget, and it kept me riveted the first time I saw it. Rather than going on for three paragraphs about that, I'll just offer this:

Stephen McHattie is totally this guy, which kills me every time I think about it.
posted by mordax at 12:18 PM on July 11, 2014


If I'm being honest, while I love, adore even, this movie, I will admit that it's quite like many other heralded horror movies in that it comes in hard and cheeky, has palpable energy and great ideas, and doesn't really hold up 'til the end or completely deliver on the promise of its premise. This is fairly common in horror, but aficionados tend to give films like this a pass as long as they hold up enough not to completely piss away the goodwill garnered from their electric beginnings.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:53 PM on July 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


I loved the movie. I read the book, and I'm still not sure what happens in the second part of the book.
posted by Pendragon at 2:50 AM on July 14, 2014


I've been struggling to put into words the view on language that I believe Pontypool is conveying - there's William S. Burroughs' famous "language is a virus from outer space" but that gets us only partway there - and I just came across this Terence McKenna quote that NAILS it. Consider this as the thesis of the film:

The new vision of nature is not as matter or energy, but as information, and information is expressed in the DNA. It’s expressed epigenetically in culture. What’s happening is that information was running itself on a primate platform, but evolving according to its own agenda. In a sense we have a symbiotic relationship to a nonmaterial being which we call language. We think it’s ours, and we think we control it. This isn’t what’s happening. It’s running itself. It’s time-sharing a primate nervous system, and evolving toward its own conclusions.
posted by naju at 4:15 PM on July 15, 2014 [8 favorites]


Literaryhero: There was basically one set in the entire film, so I feel like the whole thing could be done as a stageplay without having to change much of anything, which is a neat idea.

I'm so late to this party, but yes! I was thinking the whole time that this could be really effective in a black box theater setting. External voices, shadows and streaks and banging on the doors. You'd have to get an amazing actress who could pull you in and then hurl herself at a wall multiple times. (I loved Laurel Anne and popped up bolt straight when she started trilling high and clear like a kettle... but I am unsure why the kettle sound would be repeated as it's not a word.)

But to have real voices calling in and then murmuring and repeating just outside the curtained walls of the theatre would be supremely chilling.

They did so much with such a limited set -- it felt like War of the Worlds in a big way.
posted by mochapickle at 9:52 PM on July 20, 2014


FYI y'all: Pontypool Changes Everything *IS* a stage play.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:24 PM on July 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Hey, DOT, do you have a link? All I can find is the novel and two reviews of adaptations but no script. This would be perfect, actually, for someone I know who does theatre in a pretty remote place.
posted by mochapickle at 3:11 AM on July 21, 2014


mochapickle: I'm so late to this party, but yes! I was thinking the whole time that this could be really effective in a black box theater setting. External voices, shadows and streaks and banging on the doors.

You could do some fun/disturbing things with breaking the fourth wall. Having planted audience members start chanting words, have someone banging on the doors of the theater, etc.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:22 AM on July 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


I couldn't find a script link either. But it played here in Chicago at Straw Dog theater, I think it was. The stage script is supposed to be pretty much identical to the radio play script linked above.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:49 AM on July 21, 2014


Yep, it was the Strawdog in Chicago, DOT.

Here's a questionable edit of the movie's scripted dialogue and re-recorded in radio play format [SLYT], if that helps. The recording clocks in around 54 minutes - perfect for a long commute! /evil laugh
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 4:04 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


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