UTG’s 31 Days Of Halloween: ‘Pontypool’

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Of all the holidays celebrated worldwide, no single day is more loved by the UTG staff than Halloween. With the arrival of the year’s best month, the time has finally come to begin rolling out a plethora of features and special announcements we have prepared in celebration of our favorite day, including the one you’re about to read.

Now in its third year, 31 Days Of Halloween is a recurring feature that will run throughout the month of October. The hope and goal of this column is to supply every UTG reader with a daily horror (or Halloween-themed) movie recommendation that is guaranteed to amplify your All Hallows’ Eve festivities. We’ll be watching every film the day it’s featured, and we hope you’ll follow along at home.

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Day 10: Pontypool (2008)

It makes me feel incredibly old to write this, but I remember a time before zombie films were commonplace in the horror genre. Until Zack Snyder (Dawn Of The Dead) and Edgar Wright (Shaun Of The Dead) reinvigorated things in the early 2000s, the undead’s thirst for human flesh was something hard to find in theaters and next to impossible to see on cable television. Obviously this is not the case today, but whether or not that is a good thing depends on the type of zombie fan you happen to be. Do you prefer quality over quantity, or vice versa?

For me, the overwhelming number of zombie-based features that have come and gone over the last decade is nothing short of exhausting. The return of the undead was fun for a while, years in fact, but once people figured out how easy and affordable it was to inject CGI into even the shittiest low budget features I found myself becoming both bored and numb to the idea of zombies. It’s not that I simply did not find them scary, I no longer found them interesting in the slightest. They were to horror what Nazis are to video games, which is to say they’re nothing more than an easy target for bloodshed. The genre that once teemed with life (pun mildly intended) had become dull and redundant, which is largely the way I still feel about many zombie films today.

Ever so often however, a title comes along that knocks me on my ass and reminds me what it felt like the first time the notion of the undead made my spine tingle with fear. There have been maybe five films like this in the last seven years, and only one of them was so mind-blowing that I felt the need to make it a permanent part of my home video collection: Pontypool.

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I know you think you understand how zombie films are supposed to work, but Pontypool is a movie that is unlike anything else the genre has ever offered. Set entirely within a remote radio station, the film follows a radio DJ, his producer, and the station personnel as they learn of and then fight to live through the return of the dead – all while remaining on air. It’s far from a blood-soaked romp with the undead, but what it lacks in gore it more than makes up for in pulse-pounding tension.

When I first learned of Pontypool’s existence, the music fan in me immediately took interest in the story. I did not know what to expect, but even if I had made presumptions before sitting down for my initial viewing there was no way I could have predicted what would later unfold before my eyes. The main cast never set foot outside the radio station, yet there is a strong and consistent sense of fear running throughout the entire film. Where other genre films use images of carnage and death to provoke a reaction, Pontypool relies on performances and man’s universal fear of the unknown. As our leads learn more about what is happening outside, they feel increasingly helpless, and when that terror comes to their door — it’s up to them to try and find a way to survive.

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Most horror films are little more than metaphors for real world fears or problems, and Pontypool is no different. In a time when it seems there are more issues and threats in our world than ever before, this film taps into our often unspoken fear of the future and manipulates viewers until they’re digging their nails into whatever chair, couch, love seat, mattress, or recliner they find themselves on while watching the film. It knows we know we have no control over the world around us and uses that to its full advantage.

I am usually the first person to request gore-filled slashers when Halloween rolls around, but there will always be a special place in my horror loving heart for the subtle and unnerving terror of Pontypool. There has been talk of a sequel forever, but whether or not that ever comes to life this feature will be scaring audiences as long as its available to the public. It’s unique, chilling, and altogether frightening in a way few films are ever able to achieve. Don’t let October pass without making time to introduce yourself to this film.

Editorial written by: James Shotwell
Last year’s Day 10 film: Creepshow

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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