First, a mini-review.
Pontypool is a Canadian horror set in a radio station. The employees of the station are going about their morning as normal when a strange report comes over the police radio and a few strange calls start coming in reporting riots. The reports escalate violently and it becomes apparent that the people of the town are being hit by a peculiar virus.
By setting this film, indeed restricting it, to a radio station, the makers of this outstanding film are able to create one of the most tense cinematic experiences available. The tension, ohhhh the delicious tension, is created by a slow, uncertain, drip... drip... of details combined with the genuine concern and panic displayed on the employees faces and heard in their voices as they realise this is not an ordinary day.
This really is one of those diamonds that comes occasionally appears from the low-budget horror film "rough". See it. That's an order.
From this point on, I’d suggest those who haven’t seen Pontypool to stop reading. I have thoughts that I need to remove from my head that are not so spoiler-free as the above mini-review. For a unspoiled first viewing…
OK, now that the kiddies have gone to bed we can talk about this in more detail.
You see, as soon as it became apparent that the virus was carried through language, two things popped into my head. The Tower of Babel, and Snow Crash. For those unaware, the Tower of Babel is a bible story that explains the diversification of language. The basic story is that for the generations after the great flood, humanity was united under a single language. They gathered together and decided to build a tower so tall that it would have it's top in the heavens. Unfortunately they did it as a symbol of the glory of man, not of God. This pissed God off for a variety of reasons so he confused their language and scattered them to all corners of the globe. Hence why there are so many languages.
The novel Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson, uses the story of the Tower of Babel to suggest that there is a forgotten language that all humans have an innate understanding. This awesome cyberpunk novel talks about the original language working like a computer virus that infects our minds instead of our computers, allowing us to be controlled. Once again, it’s the understanding that causes the infection.
Ever since I first read Snow Crash, I’ve found it to be an incredibly intriguing thought. Now that I’ve seen seen Pontypool though, I can’t help but add a small degree of terror to that intrigue. It’s well established within the horror genre that “the unknown” is infinitely more frightening than the “known”. Add to that a complete inability to protect yourself. I mean, seriously, Grant said it. How do you make yourself not understand something? What if you didn’t even know you understood it?? *Shudder* It’s enough to keep you up at night… night… I mean, not day, it’s not night… night. night. night… *pop*