Never have I been so confused in my life when I watched Pontypool. It is not your common zombie film. It is really far from it. For one, the virus is spread not through air and open wounds but by infecting a language. Secondly, the terror is not based heavily on fast-paced gore, but exists more on a mental, thinking level. The premise is that through understanding of the infected words, it causes the host to mutter a word over and over until he/she becomes driven mad, becoming a mindless transceiver of repeating words. I actually think that it will spread more effectively than your average zombie virus. Since humans need language in order to express themselves, it would be too difficult to contain the virus as it does not merely reside on the physical level like common viruses do. Rather, it lives and propagates in the realm of understanding. Soon enough, people will panic, paranoia will spread. And a certain disconnection will occur as we could not express and converse with others (either for help or comfort) in the way that we are used to, something involuntary like breathing which sometimes we don’t even have think about.
As such one of the themes in film includes the power of human language, dangers of communication and how helpless we can be if it was targeted for destruction. With the virus in movie originating in terms of endearment in words such as “baby” and “honey”, one can imagine the extent of the damage that can be done. Furthermore, it is in understanding of phrases and words that we become infected. In the face of impending destruction, how can we not understand a specific word previously understood? Grant Mazzy, in memorable scene with a slowly maddening Sydney Briar, tells her repeatedly that kill is kiss. It is by doing this that they discover that the virus can be cured. By the end of the film, in an attempt spread the cure, he gives a very inspiring yet senseless speech. “We were never making any sense” Ultimately, the film tells us that though words hold definitions, it is still us, the creators and the users, who give it shape and meaning. This is perfectly summed up by the post-credit scene. I’d like to think that even though, realistically, what happened in ending were the deaths of Mazzy and Briar from the bombs, they were able to escape to another place or world they have shaped for themselves through twisting the language. This made me think about a statement by the doctor earlier in the film: “The virus affects our words, shaping our very reality it its wake.” (or something like that).
Some hardcore fans of zombie films would not welcome its sometimes confusing dialogue, lack of any fast-paced survivalist zombie action and gore and overview scenes of the impending apocalypse in general. The movie entirely happens only in a radio shack, and what is happening to the outside world is graphically described merely through radio communications. However, I think it offers a smart way of delivering the zombie genre, and uses this topic for experimentation and examination, at the same time offering a bit of social analysis along the way.