Pontypool Blu-ray review

You don't need a big budget to generate real atmosphere and tension. Dave checks out Pontypool to find out why...

Set in a radio station during a late night radio show, Grant Mazzy is the small town radio host with the gruff voice, manner and appearance.

Things are going relatively well, despite the limits of small town radio for this disgraced big town host, until the station’s eye-in-the-sky (broadcasting from a car on a hill with helicopter sound effects) sees a mass of people seeming to riot, before being cut off himself.

Frantically trying to piece together what is happening, whilst staying on air with what little news they have, Mazzy, Sydney, and Laurel-Ann are joined by Dr Mendez, who has discovered that the virus causes the infected to be drawn to the sound of voices. The virus is spread through the English language, leaving Mazzy and Sydney with no choice but to speak French if they are to avoid infection and survive this (though where they would go is anyone’s guess!).

Too late, Mazzy and Sydney discover the cure only to find that a greater power has already decided to do something about it. In Pontypool, on Valentine’s Day, there will be no happy ending.

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The strength of Pontypool is in the claustrophobic tension of being trapped in a world where you can’t see what’s happening. There’s very little gore on screen (the death of one character being the only example of real bloody gore), with everything else happening off screen or by using clever camera angles.

The characters, like the audience, have to come to their own conclusions, with Dr Mendez being the only character who seems to have an over simplistic grasp on how the virus works. Even this explanation doesn’t tell the full story and, as with the complex nature of the film, there is no happy ending to the story. That said, this isn’t a bad thing!

Pontypoolis a fantastic film which uses every minute of its run time (credits and a confusingly surreal coda included) as a tool to tell a really interesting story. There are very few light hearted moments and no distraction from the tense, powerful narrative that unfolds on the screen.

I have a terrible feeling that some will buy the film hoping for a schlocky, blood and guts fest, instead of a tightly plotted, well acted piece. For those willing to give it a go, it’s definitely worth watching, and immensely haunting.

The Disc

Pontypool: The Radio Drama is possibly the most interesting photo gallery I’ve ever seen! It’s actually an hour long radio play telling the Pontypool story, accompanied (in this case) with behind the scenes photos. In places, it’s even more effective than the film.

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The Director’s Commentary features Bruce McDonald (director) and Tony Burgess (screenwriter) who talk about the film in a light hearted and irreverent way. They discuss sequels (and there’s plenty of room for one.)  McDonald and Burgess are open about the whole process from book to film, casting to the production and covering their influences, flitting backwards and forwards in a very conversational style. It’s a bit of a weird commentary, as you occasionally feel that you’re not really invited into the conversation. 

The Stills Gallery runs for just under five minutes and is a collection of images that had also mostly appeared in the radio drama. 

In a section called “Horror Selection” there are two short films. Eve is shot in black and white and uses a range of film techniques including stop frame animation to really good effect. It’s a surreal and disturbing look at the expulsion of Eve from the Garden of Eden. The second film is Dada Dum and tells a haunting story of a girl who may be possessed or simply dreaming. Both films choose dramatic music in place of dialogue. They have a film school feel to them which makes them, at once, highly effective and oddly pretentious. Despite this, they show some really fantastic camera and effects work.

There’s also a theatrical and teaser trailer, both of which do their respective jobs of setting up the film.

It would have been really nice to see a Making Of feature. Sadly, photo gallery and commentary aside, there’s nothing that even comes close.

The film rarely exceeds 20Mbps on Blu-ray and the sound is presented in DTS 5.1. Both picture and sound look impressive and are clean.  The extras are in standard definition and look pretty good.

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4 stars

Pontypool is out now on Blu-ray and available from the Den Of Geek Store.


4 out of 5