Shut up or Die!

Veering away from the conventional zombie flick, Pontypool delivers a unique zombie story by introducing a culprit very close to man: his words and language.  Grant Mazzy, an overbearing and rebellious radio broadcast commentator, together with Sydney and Laurel-Ann, find themselves in a dire situation as a normal day at work suddenly becomes a nightmare of disproportionate size: zombies are attacking Pontypool and they have nowhere else to go.

Without giving a glimpse of what is happening outside, the setting, similar to the movie “Buried”, effectively leaves us to our imagination to picture the external chaos. Stuck within the radio station inside an abandoned church, we are left to the spoken word and Ken as our eyes as the only means of “seeing” the outside world. Like Grant, Sydney, and Laurel-Ann, we find ourselves trapped with nowhere else to go.

The sense of distance and uncertainty merely evokes curiosity from the audience to know more of the unknown, as Noel Carrol would suggest. The true horror, however, manifests itself when one of the characters finally becomes infected with the zombie virus, leaving not much room for comfort as the monster is now close and apparent. With Laurel-Ann infected with something still unknown, the personal boundaries of the characters suddenly becomes violated as what were once the comforts of the safe radio station is now infected with zombies and their virus, evoking horror in everyone.

The movie presents a unique idea of language being the cause of a zombie strain, leaving us with the only resort to not understanding to effectively combat it. However, what seems to be this far-fetched and almost impossible notion merely reflects what we have done to our language itself. As discussed in class, we have become so used to it that we treat it as merely routine and rendered most of it meaningless. It is only when we forcefully misunderstand it and become unfamiliar with it, as seen in what Grant did in his famous line “Kill is Kiss”, that we begin to understand it again and bring it back to life.

Also present in the movie is some sort of gender stereotypes particularly found in horror. For one, we see how out of the three characters, the two women are the ones who succumb to the zombie strain – something worth pointing out especially because the first words affected are those words of endearment that are more associated to women than men. More than this, however, we also see Grant Mazzy as the knight in shining armor, saving Sydney from being a monster and bringing her back to the real world.  Reading Linda William’s article, this is a way of showing how man wants to keep woman in her place in society, rescuing her from monstrosity to keep her from being who she can really be – a monster who is able to suppress man and strip him off his masculinity and power.

Pontypool ends with a scene that, instead of giving closure, figuratively blows the minds of the audience. While I personally do not know what it wants to signify, it just shows that the movie purposely wants to make itself confusing and misunderstood, for it is in doing so that we, the audience, start to think more deeply of it and begin to understand what it is trying to say.


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