Posted by: Peter Hall
Directed by Bruce McDonald, 2009
Written by Tony Burgess
Few works evoke a compliment as endearing as calling something Cronenbergian. A comparison to the great director (my favorite director still working today, for disclosure purposes) is not one I make lightly, but even without a single element of body horror, early Cronenberg is precisely what Bruce McDonald elicits with his rapturously weird PONTYPOOL. The superficial connection is that of the director’s shared homeland of Canada, but beyond that is a sibling ability to interweave oddities of the human condition with layers of captivating intimacy. The resulting cinematic tapestry is nothing short of end to end fascination.
Set entirely within the confines of a radio station situated in the basement of a small town’s church, PONTYPOOL is about a talk show host whose dying career is revitalized when reports start to trickle in of an unexplainable surge of man on man violence originating from a doctor’s office in the small titular Canadian province. Grant Mazzy, the radio host played with addictive discord by Stephen McHattie, his producer Sydney Briar and technical assistant Laurel Ann, are the barbs on the end of the hook that is Tony Burgess’ script, itself in turn an adaptation of his own book about a new strain of rage inducing virus. Their story within the walls of that church strings a realistic arch from disbelief to pure insanity and all the highs and lows both expected and unexpected along the way.
The idea that what is happening outside, as ambiguous as it be, is an Orwell era hoax soon dispels as Mazzy and co find themselves the sole bridge between the strange events in Pontypool and the clueless world beyond it.