Friday, July 30, 2010

Random Movie: Below (2002)

I feel that for some reason, Below has been under the radar (cute, right?) for many years since its theatrical release. I seem to recall seeing the DVD turning up at any one of my DVD acquisition attempts at Best Buy but the vagueness of the poster, the boringness of the title, and somewhat lack of A-list stars have painted the picture as just another of Dimension’s direct-to-DVD abominations, even though with co-writer Darren Aronofsky on board it has a much grander pedigree than those films that suffer similar fates.

As we meet the crew of the USS Tiger Shark, a submarine in the Atlantic during World War II, they are given orders to rescue three members of a British hospital ship even though this will take them off course. From the start, we can sense things are a bit off with the men on board, especially moreso after the introduction of a woman, Claire Page, one of the survivors they rescued. The first portion of the film plays out like any other WWII submarine movie I have seen called U571 to the point that there are mechanical troubles, enemy ships in the area, and depth charges that shake the camera and tousle the crew like nothing else.

We then learn why things are a bit strange on the boat as the acting skipper Brice tells Claire the story of how the original captain tragically died while trying to retrieve debris for a souvenir while topside. Emphasis on story. As the sub continues to be inexplicably chased by a German destroyer (I have no idea if that’s the right term but whatever), strange occurrences start happening on board as random record players go off at the worst times possible, bangs on the hull spelling out B-A-C-K in morse code, more mechanical failures, and disembodied voices are heard. The way things are presented in the film, this could either be a ghost, a saboteur, hallucinations due to high hydrogen levels, or just shitty luck for those on board.

This film is really broken down into several different elements vying for screen time between straightforward WWII sub actions, a haunting, a (possible) vengeful spirit, and paranoia. This is pretty ambitious stuff for what we can assume was a relatively low-budget affair as it premiered on less than 400 screens to bring in a total of $600 thousand at the box office. The problem is, while there are strong points to each of the above components, the way they are intertwined here leads to a bunch of things that do not make sense for the production. One thing I do not understand was the purpose of setting this up as a period piece during WWII because as I can tell, there was not too much effort into selling it as a different time period other than mentions of Nazi Germany and antiquated machinery. This may be true even for U571 as it has been quite a while since I have seen that, but none of the dialogue or mannerisms or character attributes differentiated this movie from present day times. I cannot claim to be close to an expert on what dialogue in the 1940s would have sounded like but I am pretty sure it would not sound exactly the same as today. Really, I cannot see any discernible reason for this movie to be set during WWII as I could buy all of the action and occurrences if it took place on a modern-day sub in a fictitious sea battle being waged.

I feel if the film had a bit more focus, it could have been better but the battling story elements cause a really weird shift in tone during many of the scenes. Its strongest suit is as a horror movie, which is primarily the backbone of the story in spite of everything else (confusingly though it is listed as a rather generic “thriller” under genre on Netflix). While there is a reliance on jump-scares and people appearing out of nowhere, many sequences have a delightful tension as apparitions appear quickly and investigations take place with the pale glow of a flashlight in a long, spooky hallway. Even some of the other parts with the constant unraveling of the story behind the dead captain are entertaining enough to play along with and try to guess the outcome which is in hindsight rather obvious but not in the moment.

Cast wise, there is nothing especially bad here but not much to make a mark otherwise. The movie is populated with “that guy” actors who you recognize but maybe cannot place. And also, inexplicably Zach Galifianakis is in it. I swear Bruce Greenwood plays every character the same regardless of dirtbag husband or President of the United States, as he has the same sort of almost charmingly but sleazy feel to him. Olivia Williams is good as the British nurse who incites most of the inquiry (she was the wife in Sixth Sense in case anyone else wonders). Scott Foley and Matthew Davis turn in largely similar roles to earlier films as Scream 3 and Urban Legends 2 respectively. The best was probably Holt McCallany, who I recognized from Fight Club, as the hardass on board mostly because he gets the creepiest scene in the movie and the best freakout.

There are parts of the movie that I really liked and parts that seemed to be standard fare from a variety of other movies from the various genres I have mentioned but the movie is somewhat lacking sadly. Perhaps I should have expected less from the man responsible for launching Vin Diesel‘s career.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Random Movie: Critters 2: The Main Course (1988)

Written by PBF

The other day, Puck reminded me that I have only reviewed one of the Critters films and that I needed to finish the series out. Damn you, Puck.

At the end of the first installment of Critters, we see a batch of Krite eggs, leaving a gaping opening for a sequel. 2 years later, we have Critters 2: The Main Course. At the beginning of the film, the 2 bounty hunters from the first, Ug and Lee, are in space with Charlie, the town drunk from Grover’s Bend, the town where the Krite attack occurred. They are killing some space creature, when another space creature calls them on their space video phone and tells them that there are still Krites on Earth and they must return. Charlie is somewhat hesitant about this, as he was a nobody and a drunk while he lived on Earth. Ug reassures him that he is one of them now, and this seems to calm Charlie’s nerves. Back in Grover’s Bend, the Krite eggs are discovered by some young punk, and he immediately trades them for beer to a guy named Quigley. Quigley sells some to Brad Brown’s Grandmother claiming that they are eggs from Europe. Brad you will no doubt recall is the son from the first movie. He and his family have since moved to Kansas City and he returns to spend Easter with his Grandmother. She is going to use the eggs that she bought for an egg hunt with some kids. She gives one of the eggs to a little girl. So now there are Krite eggs scattered around various parts of town. Needless to say, they hatch and Grover’s Bend once again falls victim to furry alien creatures that like to bite.

This movie isn’t really that good. The acting is still fine and I mean it is a pretty standard 80’s horror movie, but it just wasn’t as good as the first one. This time around there was way too much time spent getting to know characters that I ultimately didn’t give a shit about. Because of this, the movie was very slow. The pace was all off. The first movie kept going once it started, but this one kept slowing back down. Instead of quickly thinking on their feet and reacting to the situation, the characters, would stop and think of a plan, go seek help from the former sheriff Marv (who in this movie was played by Barry Corbin, instead of the no name actor I am too lazy to look up right now from the first one. Barry played him as he does any character he plays; foul mouthed, smug, tobacco chewing and hilarious). I am not sure why they did that, as Marv was pretty useless in the first film. Also, there was too much stupid comedy in this one. One of the Krites actually says, “Bitchin’.” Even more annoying is that Krites don’t speak English and thus this was translated, meaning that the Krites actually have a word for “bitchin’.”

I wouldn’t really call this crap, because it certainly does sit at the same level and many other 80’s horror movies. It is pretty run of the mill. But I wouldn’t bother with it. If you have seen the first Critters, just stop there and pretend the creatures were never heard from again. I, unfortunately, have two more films to go.

Random Movie: Zeitgeist (2007)

Written by: PBF

If you think Inception is a film likely to start many a discussion after viewing, you should check out Zeitgeist. Then share your opinion of it with someone. Especially if you are of the opinion that the film is accurate, and that Jesus may have never existed. That discussion is sure to go beyond a mere critique of the film and perhaps even incite violence.

Zeitgeist is a documentary conspiracy theory film. That being said, it does not ask your opinion, it tells you what’s what, as perceived by the filmmaker Peter Joseph. It is sectioned in 3 parts: The Greatest Story Ever Told, All the World’s a Stage, and Don’t Mind the Men Behind the Curtain.

Part I deals with Christianity and claims that it is ultimately not “real,” but rather comprised of things that come from other religions, astrology, astronomy. It demonstrates this by comparing certain events (Jesus’s resurrection, the fact that he was born of a virgin, etc) to events in other theologies that have similar if not the same beliefs of their respective deities or saviors.  It states things like the story of Jesus is taken from the Sun (in fact the narrator keeps using the phrase “Son of God” to accentuate this) and how the 3 stars of Orion’s belt (Three Kings) align with Sirius, and point toward the Sun, on the 25th of December. On this date, the Sun starts to shine more, thus the birth of the Sun/Son. The basic idea of this section is that Christianity, and therefore Jesus, is a myth.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Random Movie: Inception (2010)


If you read this site or have watched any of our episodes, you will know the level of respect and … love we have for Chris Nolan. Yes, PBF may have a sick fascination with Weekend at Bernie’s but even he does not particularly laud Robert Klane because WAB does not equal Dark Knight, Batman Begins, Memento, and now Inception on any level. Here we have a rare movie from a gifted filmmaker that is able to transcend multiple genres and their corresponding cliches and deliver one of the most intellectual films to overshadow anything else this year and probably many years’ films to come.

Even after watching the damn thing, the plot of Inception is rather dense but it boils down fairly simply even though it strips out the very nature of the film. Cobb is a theif trained in the art of extracting thoughts and ideas from a person’s head while they dream. However, he is tasked with a job that even many on his team describe as impossible: implanting an idea into one’s head that is conceived to be genuine by the subject. As a much more complex task than simple extraction, Cobb and his team go to great lengths to create multiple landscapes to coerce the subject into accepting the notion and considering it one of his own.

Like Nolan’s previous film, The Dark Knight, Inception works on a great number of levels. The casting is spot on with each member of the principals bringing a grounding seriousness which normally is desperately needed in a film as ambitious as this. Leonardo DiCaprio portrays Cobb as a man who is both confident and broken, a teacher and yet still a student when it comes to affairs with Mal, his wife played by Marion Cotillard. They have a complicated relationship to say the least but the two exert a fierce chemistry as they mingle in the dreams. Everyone else including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ken Watanabe, Ellen Page, and Tom Hardy play their respective roles with poise and confidence that truly sell their characters and the skills they bring. The one thing that Nolan can be faulted for here is the utter lack of development that the characters receive other than Cobb and Mal. We see the inner workings of the group and how they react to each other but Cillian Murphy as the main target for their job receives far more heavy-lifting in the way of depth than the rest of the crew.

That does not really matter much as even though the film is billed as a tale of thievery, it is mostly about Cobb and his redemption. Cobb wants nothing more than to be reunited with his remaining family after a terrible incident and planting a seed of thought inside Murphy’s head is the only way to achieve that. DiCaprio superbly manages the barrage of emotions needed to sell this point of the story in his quest. Very subtle lines of dialogue that seem superfluous at first glance become very telling of Cobb and his guilt of the consequences of previous journeys into this world.

Visually it is quite stunning, likely even more so if any of you are lucky enough to see it in IMAX. Though the majority of the movie takes place either in the real world or in a dream state designed similarly, various effects infiltrate the dream world with pretty spectacular results, a good deal of which have been shown in the previews. The grounding of the dreams in reality makes for pretty cool effects as buildings crumble, water rushes through, and Gordon-Levitt has a zero-G fight with a henchman. Each of the stages of dreams are filmed in stark contrast with one another which not only alleviates any confusion that might be had but also gives a stark contrast between a metropolis during a storm, a swank dimly-lit hotel, and a vast snowy outpost, each populated by minions of the subject’s unconscious who act as our disposable bad guys trying to stop the team.

Unless you are in a Nightmare on Elm Street film, moving through the dreamworld does not often pose many risks. This is even acknowledged early on as one of the characters is killed in the dream only to wake up unharmed in reality. However, during the task as the characters are heavily sedated to prevent the destruction of the fragile dreamscape, they face an eternity of solitude in limbo if something bad should befall them. This clever workaround elevates the story from the simple failure of a mission to a lifetime of abstract despair as the unnamed thugs lurk with large caliber weapons. This as well as many other facets of the script show the care in which it was created, not only to create a fantastic sci-fi concept, but to move beyond a simple tale of dreaming to one with a true emotional core for our main protagonist.

I was worried that the narrative would be dense and as hard to crack as your normal David Lynch film called Lost Highway. However, the story is relatively easy to follow throughout with a nice dash of flashbacks and recollections to further develop the Cobb and Mal relationship. This is not however a film that you can check your brain at the door as elements are introduced, observed, and then jettisoned as the complexity of the storytelling increases. Of course, this is one of the smartest high-concept summer blockbusters in years so you should not dare miss a minute for fear that a key element will be shown which will change the outlook of the film.

Is Inception a perfect film? Not at all but Nolan’s biggest strength lies in creating an engrossing tale that will make you forget about any shortcomings during the picture as you are too damn entertained to care. I worry that, just like The Dark Knight, subsequent viewings will show the cracks in the foundation and oversights in the story. These things though will not stop you from enjoying the film. Really, Inception really does not need validation of its efforts by random people on the interwebs like myself. The caliber of everyone involved should seal the deal.

*Note: I love The Dark Knight Rises but it in no way approaches the awesomeness of Inception.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Random Movie: A Better Place (1997)


Written by: PBF

If you have ever seen the films of Kevin Smith, you will notice that he usually works with a lot of the same people in each one. Most, if not all of them are his friends, and it is quite apparent that they all have a passion for film. Smith's production company View Askew, has given us a few films that were made by some of these friends, and A Better Place, written and directed by Vincent Pereira, is one of them.

Barret (Robert DiPatri) is a new student and is pushed around quite a bit. While he doesn't really fight back, he does somewhat defend himself verbally, and pretty much all of his altercations are stopped somehow before they progress. A teacher may come in to a classroom, or in one case because Ryan (Eion Bailey), steps in. Another student, Todd, is pushing Barret around, and Ryan expresses his concern that Todd never picks on someone his own size, and challenges him to a fight. Ryan ends up breaking Todd's nose, whereas he only gets a fat lip. Barret finds Ryan after school and they start talking and learning about each other. We find out that Ryan is quite a misanthrope and believes "The more people that die and the less that are born, the better." We also learn that his parents are dead (at the beginning of the film we are also told that Barret's father died, prompting the move to a new town) and that he lives with this Aunt. Barret still refuses to back down when picked on and other students who used to give him shit, befriend him, and this bothers Ryan, who is still troubled by his parents' death. This and an accidental death of a man causes a rift in Ryan and Barret's relationship, and Ryan slips into madness (but not cheesey independent film madness, actual realistic and restrained madness). What results is a very decent first film for Pereira, especially when you consider its budget was only $40,000.

This movie was never at any point bad, but was fairly mediocre there for a bit. There are a lot of lines that are supposed to be "clever," and to some extent they are, but more so in a Mallrats way, where they seemed forcefully inserted into dialogue rather than being organic. This did not last for very long. It almost seemed as if the scenes may have been shot in order, as there is a lot of awkwardness during interaction, but as the movie goes on, this seems to disappear. At one point I was convinced that Jason Lee (whose role is brief) was the best actor in this thing, which can be a worrisome thing. But as the film went on, I realized that Eion Bailey is actually quite good. Especially during a scene at the beach where Ryan and Barret are talking about God. He simply does a fantastic job of going from a lonely, misanthropic recluse to finally being pushed across a line that there is no crossing back over. It is well played and there is a logical and believable transformation there, and it is not exaggerated in any fashion. No one in the movie was terrible by any means, but not very many of them had (or still have today) any experience acting. Many familiar faces from the View Askewniverse show up from Ethan Suplee to Carmen Llywelyn. In fact, even some lines from other films can be heard. Lee Bendick, for example in Clerks, plays Wynarski. After giving Dante shit about Randall being late to open the video store, he leaves his keys on the counter of the Quick Stop, which Dante promptly throws away. Wynarski and Randall cross paths outside and he asks if Randall has seen the keys. Randall replies, "No time for love Dr. Jones." Wynarski replies, "Fuckin' kids," not picking up on (or just not appreciating) the Temple of Doom reference. Bendick is also in this film and also says, "Fuckin' kids." Another line that appears in another movie is, "Not that it is any of your business, but no." This line is spoken by Barret in the film, but is also a line from Dogma, spoken by Scott Mosier (who has a brief appearance in this film), who edits and produces a lot of the View Askew films, and is basically Kevin Smith's partner in crime. In fact there are a few other Dogma "references," which is funny as the movie was not released until 1999. "Dogma rulz," is seen in graffiti on a wall, and there is mention of Asbury Park, NJ, which is where the opening scene of Dogma takes place, where we see God (who is discussed a few times in A Better Place), while in the body of a homeless person, get beaten. Such is life in the View Askewniverse, however. You will have to get past some of the photography. During some parts of the film, it goes from normal indie film quality look to high school filmstrip quality for no apparent reason. I assume this was due to budget limitations or something like that.

When this movie was over, I was quite satisfied. A great performance from Bailey and an interesting story definitely make this a decent picture. A excellent first effort from Pereira and worth a watch.

Random Movie: Vulgar (2000)

Written by: PBF

***THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS***

Let’s do some math. View Askew + clown = funny,  right? Not really.

Vulgar is the story of Will (Brian O’Halloran), who is having a rough time of it in life. He lives in a crappy house, has a crappy car. His neighbors throw bottles at him. He is a clown for hire named Flappy, that makes birthday party appearances. While this is not paying very well (or sometimes at all) he loves it. His mother also lives in a rest home, which is yet another bill that he has to foot. Needing money badly, he comes up with an idea. In addition to being Flappy, the birthday party clown, he will become Vulgar, the bachelor party clown. An idea that would have immediately come to anyone’s mind, he will dress up as a clown, but wear lingerie. As a gag, he will come in to a bachelor party, tricking the groom-to-be in to thinking a gay clown stripper was hired instead of a whorish woman stripper. Obviously hilarity would ensue as all of the party guests would be in on this, and then a whorish stripper would really come in and the planned debauchery would go on. Unfortunately, his first gig does not go as planned and he is sexually assaulted by a man and his 2 adult sons, and the incident is video taped.

Random Movie: Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS (1975)

I am sure you have heard of a show called Hogan’s Heroes. Maybe even found it funny? No? Yes? Well after that show was cancelled, a little film called Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS was filmed on the set of that program. You also might find this movie funny, you sick son of a bitch.

It actually is kind of amusing, but only because it is completely exploitative. Ilsa is a commandant of a Nazi medical/prison camp. She is conducting various experiments on women to prove her theory that woman can withstand pain far better than men. She also really likes sex, and will select a male prisoner to have sex with at random. She however is left unfulfilled when they achieve orgasm, so they are then castrated. That is until she selects an American (named Wolfe, oddly enough) who has the ability to go all night long and never climax. The film basically alternates scenes of sex and torture for 90 minutes.

There are a few things you must know prior to watching this. Almost every female is nude at some point in this film. A lot of them are tortured brutally, mostly while nude. And I mean nude. And I mean brutally. Women are raped, beaten with whips, boiled alive, given diseases. One is hung by her neck from the ceiling while standing on a melting block of ice at a dinner table while guests dine. The gore in the film was not so much shocking as the acts of torture themselves. There was an alarming amount of experiments that involve female genitalia. There is a fair amount of gore, but not the amount one may expect from the events that happen in the film. It’s actually quite fascinating; the violence in this film is actually the only part that was done really well (sans the really poorly choreographed ”fights” at the end).  The acting is sub par, the direction fairly standard, and even though the blood was not that realistic most of the time, the scenes of torture were quite effective. If you like films such as Saw and Hostel, give this film a watch. Not bad for 1975.

So why watch a film like this? With such gratuitous nudity and scenes of extreme torture and sadistic behavior? Because it’s good. It is exploitation and you must keep that in mind when watching this. But, I mean, really? Sex and violence? Do I really need to sell it any more than that?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Random Movie: Stan Helsing (2009)

When did parody movies become synonymous with sexist, juvenile, pieces of fucking shit movies? I blame Scary Movie. At its time, Scary Movie was a decent spoof of Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and the other dozens of teen-based horror movies of the late nineties. While it has been several years since I have last seen it, Scary Movie had some legitimately funny sequences in their own right and also as a parody of the referenced movies. So, why is Scary Movie the devil? Because of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. In fact, we could go as far back as Spy Hard to blame the decline of the spoof but no one saw that movie anyways.

Apparently after the relative success of Scary Movie, Friedberg and Seltzer decided to take any meager accomplishments they might have had being two of six writers of that film and create a legacy of cinema that represents the very reason that people who read books, plant gardens, or raise hamsters think that movies are crap. Why am I dedicating so much space for two dipshits that would not know funny from a hole in the ground and who are not even related to the production of this film? For one, their “style” of parody was assuredly largely responsible for the creation of this movie. For two, there is little else to say about Stan Helsing.

Stan Helsing is one of those movies that makes you angry to watch. This is not a movie like Platoon of the Dead that was made by some guy with a camcorder with no money and no talent. Stan Helsing was actually released in theaters! And people apparently paid money to see it! If I had not watched this via the Jesusflix, I would have protested, rioted, and set some shit on fire for enduring this movie. In retrospect, I really should have expected as much based on the rating from Netflix, IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, or any other movie site around but I was stupid enough to watch this movie for the purposes of writing an increasingly angry review of it.

Instead of anything pretending to be a plot, we have a slacker who works in a video store whose name is similar to the vampire hunter from Bram Stoker’s imagination who is lost with his dumbass friends in some fucked up community that is haunted by poor caricatures of famous movie villains. Here we see the famous baddies like Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, or Leatherface but in poor fashion as they each have just different enough qualities to make them … funny? So Pinhead now has darts and syringes protruding from his head? What an idea! Freddy is not only sporting golden encrusted teeth but also a corkscrew and a lipstick applicator from his glove? What comedic genius came up with this shit? Oh, that would be Bo Zenga, one of the producers of Scary Movie. Have I made my point?

Normally, I attempt to look for some positives in a film. Even for a low-budget production, if the movie fails abysmally, I can admire the director and producer for their steadfastness. In this film, I cannot imagine anyone hear the pitch or even read the script and thought, “This is going to be a fine movie.” It angers me even more that Leslie Nielson is so willing to take a paycheck that he cannot be discriminating about the detritus that he appears in. With the exception of the attractiveness of the two female leads and the sometime chuckle-worthy delivery from Kenan Thompson, there is not a single damn thing about this movie that is worthy about mentioning in blogpost, in person, or even in a fleeting moment in your mind.

This may seem like an unconventional review and I will admit that I do not relish having to endure such an unrelenting awful fucking movie. I now have watched this movie in its entirety. It is too late for me. Save yourself.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Random Movie: The Graves (2009)

The Graves is the first movie from any of the After Dark series that I have seen. I cannot say I am in a hurry to visit the rest of them. In fairness, I cannot say I was expecting much from this film. Other than the brief synopsis provided by Redbox, I knew very little of it but I decided against a rational choice to complete last year's Oscar nominees for this instead.

The Graves focuses on two sisters, Meg and Abby Graves (natch), who like comic books, Hot Topic, and heavy metal as they spend their last few days together before Meg breaks up the duo to go to school halfway across the country. In a pretty lame final hurrah, they set out in search of the world's largest thermometer and end up in a haunted ghost town somewhere in the middle of Arizona. There they run across a crazy-ass blacksmith, a crazy-ass realtor-looking guy, and a crazy-ass preacher. The story is very flimsy but I figured how hard can it be to screw up a run-of-the-mill horror plot which also features some very attractive ladies?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Random Movie: Pontypool (2008)

Taking place in the small Canadian town of Pontypool, we meet Grant Massey, former big-time radio host who has been unceremoniously dumped into this small market to his chagrin. What starts as a typically uneventful morning, school closings and obituaries are soon replaced with sporadic reports of violent mobs popping up over the town. The movie follows Grant, his producer Sydney Briar, and associate Laurel-Ann as they attempt to corroborate the strange events.

Director Bruce McDonald stages the events remarkably well for a story that takes place within the same building, mostly the same room even, for its duration. Normally, one would expect there to be cutaway scenes showing some of the action or carnage unfolding outside but here there is none. We have three people, effectively trapped in a church basement, with only scattered reports from callers and their weather man to relay what is happening. This approach works quite well as not only do we get to experience the dynamic interaction between the main characters but we, as well as the characters, are mostly in the dark about what is transpiring outside. Other than the brief clues provided about the mob, mostly concerning mindless chanting and feasting, there is little to go on as to what happened, how it happened, or even the extent of whatever is happening.

This is likely the movie that Romero was attempting to make with Diary of the Dead as the two cover similar topics in similar mediums. However, rather than deal in insipid teenage nonsense, the film works in the importance and the perversion of media in the context of a fitting setting. At one point, Massey is speaking with a BBC reporter who seems to have more insight on what is going on but with little confirmation from the outside, it is just as likely that Massey knows as much as the rest of the world despite what is being reported of roadblocks and quarantines. When more information comes to light, Massey feels a duty to report it regardless of its implications so that the truth can be told.

Stephen McHattie and Lisa Houle have a genuine chemistry together with their rocky relationship at the start of the film to reluctant partners toward the end (the fact that they are married probably did not hurt). For the most part, McHattie plays Massie as calm and collected and just trying to do his job and report the news no matter how gruesome or disturbing it is. Houle as Sydney is the tenured one in the area and more conservative, not only with the events unfolding and their apparent cause but also what makes it on the air. Georgina Reilly rounds out the superb cast as Laurel-Ann, the unlikely former war hero who is able to soldier on (pardon the pun) during the crisis to get information instead of turning into a gelatinous character as most movies of this genre have featured.

Sadly, the film was rather uneven in the execution of the story (which may or may not have been the fault of the novel it was based on). Ironically, things started to break down as the characters became clued into what was causing the catastrophe as the abstract thought of random people responsible for death and destruction for no known reason worked more effectively that knowing what was causing it. Once we figure out the cause, we lose the creepy visual images of unruly mobs engaged in violent behavior and instead shift focus onto the solution to the problem, which the story admits may or may not be effective. This is not to mention that the only reason we know the basis of the events is from a random character who shows up and disappears within a few minutes leaving only exposition in his wake.

Some of the things in the latter half of the movie just do not make much sense as well. As the expository character shows up and sees one of the crew infected, rather than run away in a self-preservation panic, he calmly walks throughout the building, nonchalantly mentioning that she is infected by the disease. And when this character finally expires, no emotion or even mention is given save for the guilty scribbles on a wall a few scenes later. Yet when the weatherman succumbs while on the phone with Massey, he is given a rather ill-fitting, yet still emotional sendoff. Still, the actual cause of the infection is quite inventive (if you have not read it yet, it is best to avoid it) but as it comes rather abrupt, the characters are scrambling to avoid it themselves and try to remedy it for others. I only wish this portion of the film could have been done with the same tension as the preceding acts.

From some remarkably tense scenes to some of the best acting for this genre in a while, Pontypool is a good movie at some aspects but sadly baffling in others. As I seem to be on the more negative side of the fence though, it is certainly worth a look for yourself.