PONTYPOOL (2008) Reviews and overview


‘Shut up or die!’

Pontypool is a 2008 Canadian horror feature film directed by Bruce McDonald (Creeped Out series; Hellions; My Babysitter’s a Vampire series) from a screenplay written by Tony Burgess (Septic Man) from his novel Pontypool Changes Everything. The Ponty Up Pictures-Shadow Shows production stars Stephen McHattie, Lisa Houle, Georgina Reilly and Hrant Alianak.


In the small town of Pontypool, Ontario, former shock jock turned radio announcer Grant Mazzy drives through a blizzard on his way to work. When poor visibility forces him to stop his car, an underdressed woman appears on the road, startling him. Grant calls out to her, but she disappears into the storm, ominously repeating his words and visibly disturbing him. Grant eventually arrives at the radio station, where he works with technical assistant Laurel-Ann Drummond and station manager Sydney Briar.

As the morning proceeds, Grant’s on-air persona infuriates Sydney. They get a report from their helicopter reporter Ken Loney (revealed to be a man on a hill with sound effects) about a possible riot at the office of Doctor Mendez. He describes a scene of chaos and carnage that results in numerous deaths.

After Ken is unexpectedly cut off, the group tries to confirm his report, but their witnesses are disconnected before they can put them on the airwaves. Ken calls back and reports that he has found the “infected” son of a well-known citizen nearby, mumbling to himself. Before Ken can hear what the boy is saying, the call is again cut off, this time by a startling transmission of garbled French.

The transmission is an instruction to remain indoors, not to use terms of endearment, phrases that conflict, or the English language. Pontypool is declared to be under quarantine…


“This is an utterly baffling and stunningly boring zombie horror-thriller set in Ontario in which the zombies are mostly kept fastidiously off-camera. It could be – possibly – a satire on the insidious way Anglo-Saxon culture is eroding the proud identity of French Canadians. Or something else equally ridiculous and dull.” The Guardian


“Inventive and genuinely suspenseful, this is a welcome addition to the expanding zombie/virus canon.” Kim Newman, Empire

“Pontypool eventually makes a giant satiric leap into intellectual pretension […] Pontypool barely develops a premise that has all kinds of implications about the mass media (talk radio in particular) and the degradation of language in a culture overrun with hyperbole, jargon, disinformation and contrived drama.” Live for Films

” …a damn fine horror film–it’s icy, somber, and preys on the fear of the unknown in captivating fashion. Its “less is more” approach is masterful because the film literally reveals nothing on a visual level for a long stretch of time. Instead, you’re stuck with secondhand radio reports and confined with the characters in this lonely little radio station until the sh*t finally hits the fan.” Brett Gallman, Oh, the Horror!

“In an industry where original concepts are at a premium, McDonald’s film has a real doozy to brag about. It isn’t for everyone. Indeed as many people will hate is as love it but, should you possess a lucid imagination and allow your ears to take leading duties for 95 minutes, you will be vastly rewarded. I close with this; watch it twice.” Rivers of Grue

” …even though the gross FX quotient here is pretty low,what few there  are really are  quite effectively staged and presented. That being said, though, the majority of the horror is Pontypool is psychological, and in the best horror tradition, what’s not shown is much scarier than what is, allowing the viewer to imagine in his or her own mind the unfolding terror taking place outside the studio walls — and threatening, of course, to get in.” Ryan C., Trash Film Guru

” …the concept that a virus can be spread via language is both unique and horrifying (every person has their own “trigger”, that word or phrase that opens the door to the infection, and not knowing which word will be the one to set them off makes it all the more frightening). Firing on all cylinders, Pontypool is, from start to finish, a riveting motion picture.” Dave Becker, 2,500 Movies Challenge

“For a film about the perils of too much talk, there’s quite a lot of babbling presented as profundity. The political statements in Pontypool, much like those in another recent Canadian offering, Atom Egoyan’s trite terrorism hand-wringer Adoration, seem all the less provocative for appearing several years too late…” Melissa Anderson, The Village Voice

Cast and characters:

  • Stephen McHattie … Grant Mazzy – Z; Come to Daddy; Wolves; Hellmouth; et al
  • Lisa Houle … Sydney Briar
  • Georgina Reilly … Laurel-Ann Drummond
  • Hrant Alianak … Doctor Mendez
  • Rick Roberts … Ken Loney (voice)
  • Daniel Fathers … Nigel Healing
  • Beatriz Yuste … Nancy Freethy
  • Tony Burgess … Tony (Lawrence)
  • Boyd Banks … Jay (Osama)
  • Hannah Fleming … Maureen (Farraj)
  • Rachel Burns … Colleen (Daud)
  • Laura Nordin … Spooky Woman
  • Louis Negin … Conversationalist
  • Diane Gordon … Conversationalist
  • Daniel Park … Conversationalist

Technical details:

95 minutes | 2.35: 1