Mrs. French’s cat is missing. The signs are posted all over town. “Have you seen Honey?” We’ve all seen the posters, but nobody has seen Honey the cat. Nobody. Until last Thursday morning, when Miss Colette Piscine swerved her car to miss Honey the cat as she drove across a bridge. Well this bridge, now slightly damaged, is a bit of a local treasure and even has its own fancy name; Pont de Flaque. Now Collette, that sounds like Culotte. That’s Panty in French. And Piscine means Pool. Panty pool. Flaque also means pool in French, so Colete Piscine, in French Panty Pool, drives over the Pont de Flaque, the Pont de Pool if you will, to avoid hitting Mrs. French’s cat that has been missing in Pontypool. Pontypool. Pontypool. Panty pool. Pont de Flaque. What does it mean? Well, Norman Mailer, he had an interesting theory that he used to explain the strange coincidences in the aftermath of the JFK assasination. In the wake of huge events, after them and before them, physical details they spasm for a moment; they sort of unlock and when they come back into focus they suddenly coincide in a weird way. Street names and birthdates and middle names, all kind of superfluous things appear related to eachother. It’s a ripple effect. So, what does it mean? Well… it means something’s going to happen. Something big. But then, something’s always about to happen.
The above is the ominous and bewildering opening to ‘Pontypool’. You haven’t heard of it? You’re not alone, it was largely unnoticed in the box office. I didn’t even hear about it till 2012 when a friend recommended me this “Cool zombie film”. But, as I soon found out, ‘Pontypool’ is to zombies as ‘War of the Worlds’ is to the common cold.
Pontypool is a low budget psychological thriller that takes place in a frozen Ontario town. Correction, that takes place in a radio station in a frozen Ontario town. The movie makes the most of it’s nearly nonexistent budget by staying almost entirely inside a tiny radio station that operates out of a church basement. If fact the entire movie centers around three people: Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie) the talk show host. Sydney Briar (Lisa Houle) his producer, and Laurel Ann Drummond (Georgina Reilly) the studio technician.
Mazzy is a frustrated former shock-jock stuck in a dead end, no name town doing a morning show. However on this particular morning things take a horrifying turn. Reports start flooding in of a strange illness that turns the world of zombies on it’s ear. You see the virus has a unique delivery system. It spreads through words; Specifically English words. So the host now has a conundrum. How do you warn people not to use words when your words could invariably infect?
I found my mind blown by this movie. Yet I couldn’t pinpoint why. It was fairly confusing as we didn’t get much character development before the situation escalated. Instead, we got a lot of “war Of The World’s”-esque reports painting a terrifying, yet wholly incomplete picture. On top of that the concept is as intelligent as it is confusing. How can a virus spread through words? What caused this? What is this movie saying about society?
Ultimately, I think it is up to you to decide. The zombies are more of a byline to the actual ramifications and deeper meaning to the whole concept. We’ve always heard that ideas and songs are infectious. But this virus seems to be spread in the LACK of meaning in words. Much like a meaningless poppy song overrides you bring and repeats endlessly, the victims begin confusing words, then spewing them (along with blood), and finally they attack.
It could be a commentary of the degradation of language in a culture that is full of one-liners, slang, and zero substance. It could be a jab at America and it’s “dumbed down” culture. Or it could simply be an attack at the foundation of what makes us human… Our ability to communicate.
Whatever your thoughts, it gets you thinking and I find that to be the most important part of this movie. It doesn’t tell you what is going so that you decide for yourself. If your the type who only likes mindless gore, violence, and action then I don’t recommend this movie. If you like movie’s that make you contemplate and keep you up after watching it then this movie is a great choice. Is it perfect? No, but what movie is? Yet that doesn’t mean it isn’t good. I find this movie to be anxious, confusing, and terrifying… and I love it. In a time of zombie over-saturation, Pontypool breathes life into the tired subject.