by Brody Rossiter
Despite still possessing his husky radio voice and confrontational style of broadcasting, former Ontario radio star Grant Mazzy now finds himself condemned to the graveyard shift and desperately trying to reach listeners. The seasoned DJ hasn’t found the transition from prime time easy, and his fondness for pissing off the masses with incendiary talking points doesn’t sit well with a producer more concerned with run-of-the-mill traffic and weather news.
Based upon Tony Burgess’ novel, Pontypool Changes Everything, the author adapted his material for film and alongside director Bruce McDonald, taking only 48 hours to hash out a script. This sense of urgency is transposed to Pontypool’s riveting yet increasingly unsettling narrative. As Mazzy’s tones welcome in the morning, strange occurrences begin to plague the town sitting outside the station’s shadowy interior, incidents that grow ever more alarming and deadly while also moving closer to Mazzy and his colleagues.
Set exclusively within the confines of the station, an overbearing sense of claustrophobia soon sets in amongst Grant, his producer, Sydney (Lisa Houle), and technical assistant Laurel-Ann (Georgina Reilly). Station staff and the viewer are left clinging to scraps of faulty information and harrowing anecdotes from callers and local emergency services as events seemingly spiral further out of control on the outside. However, whatever has gripped the local residents is spreading like a virus, and the cause may be the most shocking breaking news that the seasoned broadcaster has ever aired.
Built upon its dedicated utilisation of a single isolated location – an emotive technique bolstered by close quarters cinematography and oppressive scoring – and the absorbing lead performance of Stephen McHattie as the unruly Mazzy, Pontypool is a real one-off within the horror genre. Words are powerful things, whether transmitted over the airwaves or not. What would happen if you lost them?