Edinburgh Film Festival: Pontypool and Romeo And Juliet Vs The Living Dead

Carl reports back on some more films he caught up with at the Edinburgh Film Festival


Pontypool First up in this round-up, we have Pontypool, which stars Stephen McHattie as small town radio DJ Grant Mazzy. Having been sacked from his old job at a big city radio station, Mazzy comes to the small town of Pontypool, where the news usually consists of missing cats and drunken fishermen. Just when he is settling into his new, boring job, a big news story begins to break across town. The details are sketchy and there’s nothing official, but something weird is going on down at the local GP’s.

Pontypool, to put it quite bluntly, is nothing short of fantastic. It bills itself as one thing, and surprises you by being something completely different altogether. Where most horror films will lead you straight into the path of danger, Pontypool stays well clear of that idea and presents you with an outsider’s view. Now really, you may want the right in your face scare tactics and jumpiness, but when a film like this breaks the mould and builds tension from moment one right up to the last terrifying act, it can give you a new way of looking at a tired movie cliché and a reinvigorated sense of terror.

Stephen McHattie brings a tremendously fun and entertaining attitude into Pontypool, without which the film would die on its feet. It’s because of his enthusiasm and effort, that this film prevails and pushes forward, getting better and better with every second. With its intrinsic humour, plot, increasing tension and well-rounded characters, it’s a smart take on the ‘zombie’ premise and it keeps you guessing right up to the very end.

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4 stars

Romeo And Juliet Vs The Living Dead Where Pontypool is smart, Romeo And Juliet Vs The Living Dead, as the title may suggest, is a very dumb film. I’m taking it for granted that you all know at least the basics when it comes to Romeo And Juliet, so if you don’t, to Wikipedia with you! And then come back.

Imagine a present day world, where people speak in Shakespearean tongue, but act as they would normally. Now imagine Juliet as the daughter of a wealthy businessman, and Romeo as a zombie. From here, you can probably guess the plot; Juliet falls for Romeo and her family disapprove greatly, they get married in secret and then Romeo is banished: Juliet then hatches a plan which goes horribly wrong and it all ends in tragedy. Or does it?

Of course, with any adaptation, they take some liberties with the story, but for the most part, it sticks pretty close to the original. Well, as close as you can get to the original with no lines from the male lead that aren’t grunts or moans. Its comedic genius lies in the twisting of lines, slapstick and as much visual humour possible, all of which add up to make a very enjoyable hour and a half. The film itself is very colourful, and the zombies tend to lean towards the pale makeup and green blood side of the spectrum, rather than the bloody and demonic-looking zombies of recent fare. This might be an upside or downside depending on your opinion, but a definite upside is that the zombies aren’t exactly athletes here, and the slow zombie is king.

If you are expecting a gore-fest, you will be sadly disappointed with Romeo And Juliet Vs The Living Dead as it leans heavily on a story-based narrative, saving its best zombie eating action for the few scenes that really need it. The film really works, and while being a hugely dumb premise, it is very well executed and will entertain you for its entire running time, with a second viewing an increasingly promising option.

3 stars