The Principals: Written by Tony Burgess (based on his novel). Directed by Bruce McDonald. Starring Stephen McHattie, Lisa Houle, Georgina Reilly, and Hrant Alianak.
“When are you dicks going to realize I am not Lance Henriksen?”
The Premise: What if a virus that turns people into infected zombie-esque berserkers could be spread through… the English language? Way up in the cold confines of Southern Canada, the tiny town of Pontypool is besieged by this epidemic and a disc jockey and the staff of a radio station must decipher and survive while being isolated from contact with the rest of the world.
Is it Good: It’s actually quite good. Stephen McHattie is such a fucking great actor and a leading role suits him well. It doesn’t hurt that his face is a roadmap of sorrow and greed, but the guy is really charismatic and the kind of actor I could see doing justice to some great literary characters. Lisa Houle also serves as a great foil to him, holding her own in every scene. Not literally, though I’d watch that too.
Shot for what had to be a pittance, there’s very little in the way of onscreen mayhem and it’s not a movie trying to compete with Dawn of the Dead. It’s tiny in its scope but it works in spades, almost entirely due to the single location and McHattie. Plus, there’s a lot of interesting possibilities in the concept of our words becoming corrupted and turning us into monsters. The movie almost loses its way when the doctor character comes in and totally delivers a ham-fisted performance but the end result is a film definitely worth looking up.
Some of the overlapping audio gets irritating as the audience has to deal with both the ON AIR stuff as well as the discussion going on in earphones but it’s a small complaint in the grand scheme.
Is it Worth a Look: Definitely. Unfortunately, it’s a Blockbuster exclusive right now but it’s even worth entering one of those shotholes for.
Random Anecdotes: Who the fuck would name their kid Hrant? This is one of the rare films featuring a CHUD blurb on the cover that I personally like. Wouldn’t it be good if the words that fucked us into monsters were words like rad, American Idol, and muesli?
Cinematic Soulmates: The work of Cronenberg.