So you want to make a zombie film. Not just any zombie film: an intelligent zombie film, sophisticated and restrained. You've got no money, in any event. You can't afford to pay an expensive CG studio to generate the special effects inherent in most movies of the undead ouvre, nor can your budget accommodate enough prosthetic heads packed full of pig intestines to do the trick. What do you do?
Stephen McHattie's Grant Mazzy is a controversial talk-radio DJ, gruff-voiced and wonderfully hungry despite having fallen from grace. He makes ends meet in these, his twilight years, by hosting "Mazzy in the Morning" for a modest audience more interested in local gossip than Grant's trademark anti-establishment diatribes. One morning, however, the usual routine grinds to a halt when reports begin to come in of a violent mob overrunning the town. Before his connection cuts off, the station's eye in the sky reporter describes the outbreak firsthand: locals are massing in what Ken Loney (actually just a man in a car on a hill) calls "a herd." They seem to be repeating the same words and phrases over and over, like automatons. It is not entirely out of the question that these people may also have a hankering for brains.
Such simplistic concepts rarely play in cinema, however. Cinema is a ruthlessly visual medium, increasingly dependent on poking its audience in the eye with a pointy stick every five seconds, and there's simply very little in Pontypool to smash-cut to. A few guys and girls chatting into microphones in a soundproof room just isn't the sort of narrative that plays well on screen - even if the world is ending around them all the while. Car chases, explosions and sex scenes, on the other hand, perhaps even amid the aforementioned apocalypse... now that's more like it!
Still. All things considered, remember? For a movie a few dudes made for pocket change, it's a hell of a film. Pontypool is briefly a bit ridiculous, but by and large, it works wonders with precious little. A tense and affecting drama wrapped in the inference rather than the fact of a zombie film's trimmings, Pontypool is a lesson to all indie filmmakers with a speculative tale to tell; a low-budget masterpiece in microcosm. What Primer was to science-fiction, Pontypool is for the genre George A. Romero has single-handedly driven six feet into the cold, clammy earth.