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What if the English language started spreading a deadly virus?

23 Feb 2008

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Canadian director Bruce McDonald introduces a thought-provoking, and even strange, idea in his latest film premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival tonight. Canada’s preeminent cult filmmaker’s first horror flick, Pontypool, proposes a scenario where even the most endearing words in the English, language such as “sweetheart, cupcake and sugar,” carry a deadly virus leading the most benign of people to commit horrendous crimes.

The story is based on a 1998 novel by Tony Burgess entitled Pontypool Changes Everything. While Bruce McDonald originally started working on the script adaptation as a radio project several years ago, he later became intrigued with the idea of turning it into a movie.

McDonald turned to charismatic actor Stephen McHattie (who has appeared on X-Files, Seinfeld, Law and Order and will be next seen in the film The Watchmen) to lead the intimate cast as washed up big city radio shock jock Grant Mazzy -- who finds himself at the helm of the early morning show at CLSY Radio in the tiny town of Pontypool, Ontario (north-east of Oshawa).

What begins as a typical day reporting on yet another massive snow storm and the usual school closings, suddenly turns into a frightening situation involving weird eruptions of violence in the usually peaceful town. Soon, the members of the small staff barricade themselves in the town’s only church basement, where they broadcast from, when they realise that the reason for this eerie outbreak of violence is that the English language had become infected with a virus. They originally advise the population to avoid using terms of endearment. But then they are eventually encouraged to abandon the English language altogether.

The story was filmed in one location, and in chronological order, in the basement of the former Victoria-Royce Presbyterian Church in Toronto’s West end. Director Bruce McDonald sought to make the most of this setting by focusing heavily on dialogue. “Dialogue as action, action as dialogue” he says. Inspired by the likes of Hitchcock, Murneau and Cronenberg, Pontypool was filmed in a classic style with the idea of using the small space, dialogue, and sound design to create a haunting atmosphere of suspense and horror. 

 

TIFF Screening Schedule for Pontypool:

Saturday, SEPT. 6th – 8:00PM @ AMC 6Tuesday,

SEPT.  9th – 4:30PM @ VARSITY 7Friday,

SEPT. 12th – 5:00PM @ VARSITY 8

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