Jen’s October Flicks: Pontypool

This October, we’re trying something different. From October 2nd to the 31st, Jen will be writing up horror movie recommendations on a daily basis. The selections will weave between well-worn classics and the smaller fare, but they’re all special in their own way. If you watch one and want to let her know what you think (or judge her taste in films), you can find her on Twitter at @jbu3.

Yes, we’re starting things off with a zombie film. For such meandering, simple creatures, they’re pretty inescapable these days: The Walking Dead is about to start its eighth season, Resident Evil is still pumping out games, and the monsters have been deconstructed (often literally) to the point where there’s little ground left to cover! Zombies have fallen in love, starred in their own CSI dramas, and even infiltrated the works of Jane Austen, but they keep coming back for more. I won’t blame you if you’re already ready to bounce, but it’d be a shame to miss Pontypool.

This swift Canadian film follows Grant Mazzy, a once-famous shock jock relegated to school closure announcements in a cramped church basement after crossing one too many lines. To the chagrin of his manager and amusement of her assistant, Grant still weaves colorful lies into his reports: he feels little responsibility for the way talk radio exaggerations inflame small-town resentments. As he and his crew go through the motions, the reports from his local correspondents grow stranger and stranger until it becomes clear that this isn’t an ordinary day, and they come face-to-face with a threat that even a locked, insulated room can’t dispel.

Aside from a short introductory scene, Pontypool locks you in its basement studio for the duration, relying on “chopper” (emphasis on the quotes) check-ins and the occasional guest to give reports on the outside world. This limited scope works to its advantage: like the rest of the cast, you’re kept unaware or skeptical of the world outside the church until it comes knocking. The severity of the situation reveals itself over time, and without actually spelling it out, sharply criticizes the way radio hosts haphazardly spew vitriol that their fans unquestioningly digest. Saying much more would spoil its ingenious twist, so I’ll just point you in its general direction and ask that you give one more zombie movie a fair shake.

Pontypool sadly left Netflix, but you can rent it on iTunes for $4. It’s well worth your time.