I was actually quite impressed with this movie. I found it quite interesting that a movie set in just a small radio station in some remote, unheard of city in Canada was able to hold my attention throughout the entire movie.
There are two reasons i could postulate as to how they were able to do this. First, Stephen McHattie as Grant Mazzy. Since the whole narrative is guided by this man’s voice, proper casting of his role was quite critical. I think they did quite a job casting McHattie because as self-assured and almost arrogant as he could be at times, his voice is the voice of guidance and of discovery that guides our experience of the movie. His impressive portrayal of this character ensured that when he found himself nervous or even scared, this only instills the same fear in the audience. The portrayal of his character as self-assured, made every moment of confusion as unnerving for us, as if we were hopeless and petrified Pontypool residents listening to his broadcast, as anxious to understand the situation as they are completely terrified by it. Second, the way the movie was shot and its witholding of the who, what and why’s of the outbreak created great tension within its audience members simply because the unknown was only clarified slowly through frantic and often perplexing phone-calls from the outside world. This gave the audience a clear opportunity to let the horror unfold in their own heads. Because never did reveal outright the who, whats and whys of the outbreak, you are left to have your imagination run wild. Your curiosity is only whet but never really fully satisfied.
Though at times, it was hard to follow the who, what and whys in this movie, i think thats part of the whole appeal of the movie. No explanation past what the characters can discover or assume is ever really given, and even when it is, it is sometimes difficult to wrap your head around or altogether nonsensical. What they discovered to be the source and the transmission of the disease was unfathomable to say the least, and the random moments of irrelevant silliness such as the post-credits, almost make me wonder if they cared to make sense at all. But I guess that’s all part of what makes this movie interesting – you’re left to use your imagination, to draw your own conclusions.
In relation to the articles on gender, I actually think that Pontypool portrayed the more stereotypical male and female of horror where the man is the dominating, assertive one while the woman is more passive, more the damsel-in-distress one. As we saw in the movie, Grant chose when to respect Sydney’s decisions as his producer and when to do and say as he pleased on air. Also, we see that when Sydney gets attacked by the infected child and is infected herself, it is Grant that comes to the rescue. She is even attracted to him at this moment – this moment of masculinity, of heroism even, of Grant. In relation to Barbara Creed’s article, one can speculate that the virus itself was, in Creed’s explanation, feminine. She believes that, in horror, the feminine is seen as passive and permissive of subjugation. This virus somewhat acts in the same way because it doesn’t have the power in it’s self to transmit itself, it has to be made active by a power outside of itself – language. It needs to be triggered by the uttering and understanding of words because it is only then when it transcends passivity and actively infects a new host.
For a movie that most probably worked with a small budget, Pontypool was very successful in creating a feeling of curiosity and tension needed for a pleasant horror experience, as Robin Wood would agree. Its steady but effective mode of making known the unknown was quite unique and ensured that our eyes and ears stayed attentive and our imaginations at work.