Films & Schedules

  • Pontypool

  • Bruce McDonald

95 minutes

Production Company:
Ponty Up Pictures Inc.
Executive Producer:
Henry Cole, J. Miles Dale, Jasper Graham
Jeffrey Coghlan, Ambrose Roche
Tony Burgess, based on his novel Pontypool Changes Everything
Production Designer:
Lea Carlson
Miroslaw Baszak
Jeremiah Munce
Steve Munro
Claude Foisy
Principal Cast: Stephen McHattie, Lisa Houle, Georgina Reilly, Hrant Alianak

Canadian Distributor:
Maple Pictures

Saturday September 0608:00PM AMC 6 Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist
Tuesday September 0904:30PM VARSITY 7 Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist
Friday September 1205:00PM VARSITY 8 Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist

Headed to work on a particularly foul Valentine's Day morning, caustic radio personality Grant Mazzy (played with uncommon verve by Stephen McHattie) isn't expecting anything different. He'll update the weather, announce school closures, relay the obits and fight with his producer Sydney Briar (Lisa Houle) about how a little controversy makes good radio. Mazzy was a big-shot star before he wound up working at The Beacon, a tiny station run out of the church basement in a little piece of nowhere called Pontypool. But today things don't seem so run-of-the-mill. A distraught woman, straight from Herk Harvey's Carnival of Souls, nearly runs into Mazzy as he's heading to work. And the provincial police have a shootout with a group of people ice fishing – they may have all been drunk (including the cops), but the suspects were reportedly talking gibberish, running around naked and missing body parts. Then there's the riot at the offices of Dr. Mendes (Hrant Alianak).

Directed by acclaimed maverick Bruce McDonald and based on a novel by Tony Burgess, Pontypool could be called a zombie movie, but the elements (like the incident with the ice fishers) do not quite tally up, genre-wise at least. For one thing, the virus is not spread by the traditional means, at least according to the aforementioned Mendes, who believes it's airborne. Nor is Mazzy your average talk show blowhard. He may suggest Don Imus visually – right up to the beat-up cowboy hat – but he's fond of quoting Norman Mailer and Roland Barthes, neither of whom is likely to show up on Imus's reading list.

The film breaks with the gore-laden tradition of zombie movies. In fact, McDonald and company have dropped us into a far more disturbing world of metaphysics and linguistics. It is as if the makers of Dawn of the Dead decided to keep all the action in the television studio from that film's beginning, but had the script rewritten by Umberto Eco, Noam Chomsky and Carlos Castaneda.

With last year's The Tracey Fragments, McDonald united the hipster and more experimental elements of his work for the first time. Pontypool is an even more seamless and audacious step along the same road; an avant-garde genre movie that's both thought-provoking and creepy.

Steve Gravestock

Bruce McDonald
Bruce McDonald was born in Kingston, Ontario. He has worked extensively in television and has been a maverick on the Canadian film scene since he made his breakthrough feature, Roadkill (89), which won the Toronto-City Award for best Canadian feature at the Festival in 1989. His films include Highway 61 (91), Dance Me Outside (94), Hard Core Logo (96), Picture Claire (01), The Love Crimes of Gillian Guess (04), The Tracey Fragments (07), which was one of Canada's Top Ten films of 2007, and Pontypool (08).

Cadillac People's Choice Award