JT Film Review

108 – Pontypool (2008)

Pontypool REVIEW

3.5/5 stars

Director – Bruce Marshall

Cast – Stephen McHattie, Lisa Houle, Georgina Reilly, Hrant Alianak


Having heard much buzz and critical acclaim about it, I recently watched Pontypool, a Canadian “zombie” horror film. Unfortunately I think it is one of those films that just isn’t as good as you want it to be. First, to the good stuff.

The lead actor (Stephen McHattie) has been singled out for his amazing performance, and rightly so. The writing crackles along with an energy not  often seen, and McHattie delivers it perfectly. His character (a washed up, grumpy, and stubbornly erratic radio DJ)is one of those original creations who, despite his strangeness, still manages to ring true. Maybe because of it. We are all unique after all.

The two main female characters we meet (McHattie’s producer and audio technician) are both drawn from real life as well, and ring absolutely true. Their relationships and interactions with McHattie are utterly convincing.

The movie is set in a radio station, temporarily housed in a church basement, and it only moves outside of this setting for the opening shots. This creates a great sense of claustrophobia, and creates some real tension when we learn that people outside in the town are starting to go violently mad. The great thing about the movie’s conceit of being set in a radio station is that we hear reports of devastation and raving mad people, we hear some people being killed, etc., but we never see anything at all until late into the film. Hearing the situation but not seeing it allows us to build it up in our minds, it lets us use our imagination to conjure up what is happening. This is wonderful, and potentially much more scary than actually seeing the acts being committed. This was a brilliant move, and one that carries the movie through the first half (perhaps even longer) as a wonderfully tense ride.

Pontypool falters drastically in its last section however. It starts breaking its own rules and not keeping track of who knows what, how much they know, and how much the audience thinks the characters know. A character is introduced (fairly randomly, I must say), a doctor who is trying to figure out what is happening throughout the film. One of the problems is that we have already figured out that a virus is being spread through the town by means of the spoken word, and the characters have been given all the clues possible. The strange thing is that they seem to understand some things sometimes and not at others. Basically the third act is full of so many strange inconsistencies, back-paddling, and rule breaking that we become a bit lost. What do they know? What are the rules?


Pontypool is an exceptional movie that seems to have switched writers after the half-way mark. The characters, which were previously tautly drawn, and the rules of the movie, which previously seemed well-defined, tumble and fall in the third act, seriously damaging the rest of the movie. However there is no escaping its great first half, so I find myself recommending it, but with reservations.



“Pontypool” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

BONUS LINK: A Great Review of Pontypool by the great guys at…

Movies You May Have Missed“.



September 2, 2010 - Posted by | 3.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Horror, Year - 2000-2009 | , , , , , , , , , , ,

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