“Killing is kissing,” the shock jock repeats to his traumatized female producer; outside their Ontario station, the snowy world may be crumbling into apocalypse. It’s a weird, cracked moment in a weird, cracked film: Pontypool, the kind of heady independent horror that scares critics more than fans, starts with the cocksureness of Talk Radio and heads for the seismic territory of something like Tracy Letts’s psychomeltdown Bug. (It might actually work better onstage.) “Kill me,” the unhinged producer finally responds, and you smile at the verbal dexterity.
The movie, scripted by novelist Tony Burgess, is also a zombie film—possibly why audiences get to see it at all. But save one bloody eruption at a glass-walled sound booth, Pontypool would rather be pouring over its ideas. To wit: These marauders aren’t after human flesh, but are transfixed by a mental hiccup that makes them susceptible to sweet-natured words. Even a lefty allegorist like George Romero would frown. It’s a little too pointed. But Stephen McHattie, as the cowboyish DJ, does a convincing fall from Hestonian ego, and the buzzing sound design envelops. Perhaps we could all soften our language a little, especially the Limbaughs of the world. Still, a class in courtesy sure is an unfun premise for the undead.—Joshua Rothkopf
Opens Fri; Cinema Village. Find showtimes