Forget ‘Hellions’… Watch ‘Pontypool’!


Hellions (2015) by celebrated Canadian director Bruce MacDonald (Hardcore Logo) is in selected theaters and on VOD just in time for everyone’s favorite month of creepy crawlies and ghoulish ghosts. But instead of taking a look at MacDonald’s latest endeavor let’s look back at his last dance with horror the brilliant and frankly superior film Pontypool (2008).

Set in Ontario during a cold harsh winter


is the tale of jaded, washed up talk show DJ Frank Mazzy (Stephen Mchattie), his production assistant Laurel-Ann (Georgina Reilly) and producer Sydney Briar (Lisa Houle). These three characters are stuck in the church basement studio listening to what appears to be a zombie apocalypse unfold. The claustrophobic and tense horror film rings out as a breath of fresh air in a tired and benign zombie apocalypse subgenre. Here are five reasons why you should put away

the Walking Dead

and watch



  1. Tony Burgess:

Tony Burgess penned this dark and brooding tale and though you might not know it, he’s responsible for over eight horror greats. His dark and foreboding style is reminiscent of Lovecraft and he has written the screenplays for Ejecta (2014), Hellmouth (2014), Septic man (2013) and Pontypool. This celebrated novelist’s fresh perspective on the zombie plague boils down to the relationship of three characters that are forced together in an isolated basement. Though minimalistic, the dialogue is compelling and amazingly personable.

  1. Zombies Metaphor:

Some of the best zombie films are politically charged metaphors that ring out as both frighteningly nihilistic and brutally honest. Think of Romero’s original Dead trilogy and how Night, Dawn and Day each unabashedly encapsulated the fears and trauma of American culture in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Pontypool reflects on the role of the media in crisis and the overflow of words that are charged with and without meaning. Repetition, static sound and fiction in the media are all subtly critiqued within the film, leaving you to ponder the responsibility of the media and its contrived nature.

  1. Scary Sound:

The use of sound within this film is astounding. The fact that the whole film takes place in a radio station in a church basement and is nonetheless terrifying is a feat in itself. Some of the tensest moments are the frantic and frightened first person reports from callers and sounds of horrific events unfolding. Both the diegetic and non-diegetic sound are equally terrifying. The non-diegetic often bleeds into the diegetic sound seamlessly setting up a tension that is hard to shake even after the movie has come to a close. Sound and words are central to this film and its use is brilliantly executed.

  1. The Actors:

The majority of the film’s shots are close ups of the terrified Frank Mazzy’s face as the horrors in small town of Pontypool are dictated to him. Stephen McHattie (The Strain, The Watchmen) does a brilliant job of conveying the incredulous terror of the character. McHattie performance in itself is reason enough to watch this flick.

  1. Self-reflexivity / Meta Horror:

The best horror is self aware, meta horror, films that push the limits of the genre and deliver a fresh and often refreshing take on genre. Pontypool takes genre binaries and spins them on their head, not offering gore but supplementing it for off screen scares that are reminiscent of classic horror radio but exponentially more frightening. Meaning seems to fade away by the end of the film and gives way to frantic, claustrophobic, panic. The breakdown of genre is complete by the end of the film which is crystalized by an after credits sequence.

For a dose of quality Canadian horror perhaps instead of looking to Hellions Bruce MacDonald’s newest film you should take at a look at MacDonald’s underappreciated and refreshing Pontypool.

Next: Does the Horror Genre Need to be More Anachronistic?

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