Sunday, September 30, 2012

30 Days of Nightmares #4: PONTYPOOL (2008)

The Story: A zombie movie without zombies, by way of the Mercury Theater on the Air (cryptic, I know...)

Expectations: What's in a name?  I didn't really know anything about PONTYPOOL except the title... and I avoided the film for a while because I didn't know what the hell it meant.  Sounds like a made up word, doesn't it?  Like some kind of gibberish that a five year old might spit out.  I also didn't know what to make of the poster art.  It seemed awfully heady for a low-budget horror movie.  Eventually my curiosity got the better of me.

Reaction: As it turns out, Pontypool is the name of a small town outside of Ontario, which novelist Tony Burgess appropriated as the setting of his novel Pontypool Changes Everything.  If you haven't read the book, I won't to spoil the story for you.  The fact that I knew almost nothing about this film made the viewing experience much better.  There's a scene about mid-way through the movie where the twist on the familiar siege story is explained.  At that point, viewers will either turn away or go along for the ride.  Because of the captivating performance of leading man Stephen McHattie -- one of only three main actors who expertly carry the entire film -- I went along for the ride.  I suspect that anyone with a strong belief in the power of words will be right there with me.

Just a few days ago, I read an introduction to a book about belief and understanding that culminated with the phrase "Sometimes reading is a kind of mutation."  That's not exactly what the film's about but it's as good a summary as I'm willing to give right now, along with a hearty recommendation for this smart, unpredictable little thriller -- proof that even the simplest story ideas can always be tweaked and turned into something new.  If you really like it, I'd also recommend the 2006 film THE SIGNAL, and a 1985 episode of The Twilight Zone called "Wordplay."

Most Nightmare-Worthy Moment: A musical quintet called Lawrence and the Arabians (curious yet?)

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