George Romero, move over. Finally someone has come along and given the tired zombie genre a genuinely chilling makeover, and its success comes down to some good old-fashioned storytelling rather than OTT blood and gore.
Set entirely inside a radio station in the Canadian town of Pontypool, Ontario, indie director Bruce McDonald‘s 2008 thriller focuses on Grant Mazzy, a scotch-soaked, ‘take no prisoners’ radio DJ (played by a husky-voiced Stephen McHattie, in a career-defining role) as he begins yet another routine morning show, aided by his producer Sydney (McHattie’s real-life wife Lisa Houle) and research assistant Laurel-Anne.
But this is going to be no ordinary day, as the team’s eye in the sky Ken Loney starts filing in reports of acts of random violence occurring in the town. As the day unfolds, Mazzy and his team become witness to their town falling apart as a mysterious virus spreads via the use of the English language.
But as the radio station is in itself a beacon projecting Mazzy’s reports, the infected population begins herding towards it. And so comes the dilemma: do the team stay on the air in the hope of being rescued or, are they in fact providing the virus with a way of infecting the entire world?
Gripping from beginning to end, Pontypool is that unique breed of horror: a film that relies on the power of the spoken word to relay the creeping terror manifesting itself as the story unfolds. Not since Orson Welles’ faked radio broadcast of HG Wells’ The War of the Worlds back in 1938 has the power of the spoken word been used to such chilling effect. And who’d have guessed that knowing a little French could save your life?
Released on DVD and Blu-Ray 25 January