I'd heard about this movie here and there, but I didn't know anything about it beyond the title. But recently I was looking for a new movie to check out that I might enjoy but hadn't exactly heard all about. A Little Known Movie, as it were. And that's when I stumbled upon this film. And I'm so glad I did. The best way to describe it is as a zombie movie... without zombies. It follows a controversial radio host, Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie), who had just been recently fired from a big job and is now working in the small town of Pontypool. He works along with Sydney Briar (Lisa Houle) and Laurel-Ann Drummond (Georgina Reilly) at this tiny station. But not long after they start their day, they start getting word of a riot at a doctor's office... and then how the rest of the town starts going crazy and killing each other. They slowly learn that there's a virus being transmitted by the English language using trigger words that turn people into crazy, murderous beings. So now they're stuck between going over the radio and figuring out what's going on or staying off the air in fear of transmitting more of the virus.
The movie could easily be split into three parts. The first part, which is the first 20 or so minutes, is kinda boring and could have been maybe 5-10 minutes shorter. It introduces us to the characters, which is nice, but then it just keeps going with nothing of importance happening. But if you can make it through the first 20-25 minutes, you're golden.
Because that leads into the second part, the middle 40 or so minutes that is a lot of the best parts of the movie. This was inspired by Orson Welles' War of the Worlds broadcast hoax. No visual horror is shown during any of this, and it's some of the creepiest stuff in the whole movie. It forces you to use your imagination by just listening to people calling in to the radio station and describing things. There are totally intense parts during this segment, even if you never see a thing.
Then you have the third part of the movie, the last 30 or so minutes. This is where the actual visual horror comes in. The crazy people show up at the radio station, there's a small amount of gore, and it shows all the survival and hiding and all that. This part of the film is pretty good, as well, especially the ending.
Now, you can't call these things zombies. Even the writer and director both said they aren't zombies. They call them "conversationalists." These things go through stages of forgetting words, then incoherent babbling, and then all-out destruction. And I love the reasoning behind what can cause the virus with the language and all that. And it's great when you know a couple trigger words, but you see certain characters not hearing the words because they're focused on something else going on at the moment.
There's some good comedy in the film, mostly from Stephen McHattie, whose character is a bit of a douche, but in an endearing kind of way. And I loved his voice--perfect for the radio host. And apparently he's reprised his role from an actual radio transmission that they did in the UK a la War of the Worlds (via Orson Welles). And that transmission is actually included on the DVD, which is pretty cool. So if you've got an hour to kill, you can actually just play the audio of the radio play and listen to that (it's pretty much the movie, but without the other bits not broadcasted).
Overall, the movie isn't perfect, but it's still really good. I'd definitely recommend it, especially if you like a more old-school imagination-necessary type of horror film. It's a very talky film, but it keeps you engaged. Good movie, good acting, good suspense, good creepy factor, good ending... and even the credits are cool, because over the credits you hear radio broadcasts and whatnot have the after-effects of the Pontypool outbreak. Though after the credits, there's a very strange and seemingly unrelated clip that really doesn't make any sense, especially in the context of the movie. But besides that, the movie is really good.
A Keanu 'Whoa'
(P.S. I actually just realized this movie was directed by the same guy who did The Tracey Fragments, which I just finished watching via Netflix maybe a week ago... review forthcoming... but a completely different type of film (this one's better).)